Presented by Boston Circus Guild
Directed by Creature aka Karin Webb
Review by Gillian Daniels
CONTENT WARNING: Gory, sexy, bloody, violent, and meant to thrill.
(Cambridge, MA) Local comedian and artist Wes Hazzard is the MC and game master for an evening of aerial stunts and scantily clad performances. In between explicit clips from horror films and faux murders, Hazzard charms the audience with jokes and 1990’s references. He, and the ska-rythums of the fantastic Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, grounds the twisted, dark menagerie in charisma.
In the frame story, Hazzard plays a game show host who gets four “audience members” (definitely not plants, cough) to come play a Jumanji-style game. One by one, the innocent contestants take turns and are possessed, electrocuted, murdered, and resurrected.
It’s a loose story, to say the least, but I doubt the audience I was with was here for the scant plot. No, the entrée to this gory feast are the stunts, executed with impressive athletic prowess by the Boston Circus Guild.
T. Lawrence-Simon is tricked out in electric body paint as he performs with an aerial hoop, Kellyn Morrow proves a witchy mistress of aerial silks, Andrew Insect makes a chilling impersonation of Nosferatu, and Danny Drake performs a memorable, grim strip tease as he reveals the eyes growing like tumors from his skin.
The visuals are deeply compelling and wonderfully gross.
The performers are gorgeous and magnetic, but as tastes vary, and despite flashes of skin, I found the show less sexy and more creepily thrilling. After all, the closest bit that fits a classic burlesque strip tease ends in Player Two’s junk being cut off and thrown into the audience.
Where it bounced off my leg. And I decided to just, you know, not take it home as a wobbly-sausage souvenir, for fear the cat would steal it and I would have to explain his new toy to my roommates.
Fonda Feeling, Ellen Waylonis, Alex Jackson, Tim Ellis, Ember Flynne, Siena Moon, and Tori Markwalder all perform capably and with exquisite finesse. In between their costumes and careful stunts, by the final act, they each seem like ethereal visitors from another world. Just when the brooding darkness of Cirque of the Dead threatens to overwhelm even Wes Hazzard’s calm, the whole show dissolves into a warm, funny celebration with the stylings of Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band.
The sense of escapism Cirque of the Dead represents, gory and grim as it may be, is invaluable and beautifully articulated with supreme commitment to physical flights of fancy. The Oberon has hosted many such shows over the years and this particular celebration of guts, both real and prop, fits right in.
Cirque of the Dead is absolutely your speed if you’re in the mood for horror movies, fake blood, boobs, and leotards. It’s short on contortion, fire, and juggling, but perfectly sized in seasonal spirit.