Last year the Carol Tambor Foundation bestowed its prestigious “Best of Edinburgh” Award on Pants on Fire’s remarkable Metamorphoses, which I caught in New York when it visited last January. This year, the award went to an acrobatic performance piece which is just as original and innovative but in a very different way, with a single on-stage performer rather than a busy cast of storytellers.
Tobias Wegner, an acrobat and an impressive and endearing physical presence, conceived the show, developed it with the Circle of Eleven group, and is performing it now under the direction of Daniel Brière at Theatre Row until Feb. 5. Its interesting conceit is that a man finds himself in a room that’s tilted 90 degrees. We see him in live action on one side of the stage, and simultaneously projected on a screen on the other at a 90 degree angle. Simply stating this doesn’t tell you much, though; the cleverness comes from the actions Wegner undertakes as he adjusts to, uses, and even celebrates his new “anti-gravity” abilities. For an antecedent, think of of Fred Astaire’s famous Ceiling Dance from Royal Wedding.
There’s clever business with projections too – Wegner interacts with them although he can’t see them – as well as animations, music, and an interesting visual-echo effect. It’s a winning, innovative performance.
The one problem is that it overstays its welcome a bit. The show is essentially a circus act, in the best sense. Imagine an intimate version of Cirque du Soleil; this would be a perfect segment. As such, the show’s one-hour length isn’t quite merited. For example, Wegner performs his most impressive acrobatics towards the end of a sequence that has already gone on long enough that we’re not primed to appreciate them.
Without a doubt, though, Leo is quite different from the usual sorts of fare and a delightful show well worth seeing, especially if you’re of a mind to expand your perspective – and to laugh, which we did quite a bit during the first part of the show. After its New York run it will be visiting New Zealand, then Germany, and then returning to the U.S. for a run at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC. For New York ticket information visit the Theatre Row website.