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Absinthe

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

Absinthe
Fabio and Giuliano Anastasini.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

It’s often said that summer belongs to the young. And after this year’s incarnation of Absinthe, the European cabaret circus returning for its third year to a Spiegeltent at the South Street Seaport, it’s going to be hard to disagree.

Slicing through the expected roster of gifted (and often barely clothed) adult performers bringing the underworld into the mainstream are Fabio and Giuliano Anastasini. One is perhaps 12; the other can’t be much older than 20. But when the elder brother hops aboard a small angled bench and bounces the younger one into the air with his feet, both become ageless. They evoke the perfectly polished work of the world’s finest artisans, the ones who create astounding works with such unassuming ease that your first thought is, “I could have done that.”

Replicating the Anastasinis’ work at home, even if your ceilings happen to be high enough, is not recommended. But venturing to Pier 17 at the Seaport to see these two marvelous magicians defy gravity’s supposed logic certainly is. Especially if you’ve never before made a pilgrimage to the Spiegeltent. On the other hand, if you went last year, you might want to think twice.

This is not because of the acts’ overall quality - if anything, this year’s assemblage is brisker, tighter, and funnier than what was seen as Absinthe 2007 - but because so many of the attractions currently on display were also featured then. One expects the crass emcee, the Gazillionaire (Voki Kalsayan) and his broken-down assistant Penny (Anais Thomassian) to return to heckle and verbally abuse the audience by shattering any notions of propriety. But the others are something of a letdown.

Julie Atlas Muz’s battles with a giant bubble (just large enough to contain her whole body, conveniently enough) and an amorous severed hand. The Willers, who elevate extreme roller skating to heretofore unimagined limits. Adil Rida, the ultra-cut ab-acrobat who sails through the air supported only by fabric strips. They all remain alluring, but lose much of their lustrous wonder the second time around. Physical feats like theirs thrive more in ethereal moments that must be savored than they do in regular repetition that might remind you these people are really human after all.

So this year’s chief standouts are the newcomers: The alcohol-inclined chanteuse Kaye Tuckerman, who swallows and spits songs as diverse as Jacques Brel’s “Carousel” and “Let the Sunshine In” (just in case you can’t get tickets to Hair in Central Park), when she’s not trolling (and rolling through) the audience; the gorgeous contortionist Princess Anya, also a mistress of the hula hoop; Duo Ssens (Genevieve Landry and Maxime Clabaut), for whom airborne lovemaking (the strictly symbolic kind, mind you) is a passion unto itself; and Duo Sergio (Sergey Petrov and Sergey Dubovyk), two bodyguards who escape the Gazillionaire’s employ to strip and balance upon each other in increasingly impressive displays of masculine one-upmanship.

But the Anastasinis surpass them all, plunging into their tricks with a youthful vigor that makes them appear to be the most effortless - even though they’re probably the most dangerous on offer. Adults’ muscles and professionalism you can trust. But a single misplaced foot, an overly aggressive kick, or a split-second head misplacement could spell tragedy for one or both of these young men. That, of course, is why they’re so exciting: They’re not yet old enough to be terrified, so they’re unflinchingly willing to take chances. If Absinthe is to remain a yearly downtown fixture, it needs to adopt a similarly adventurous mindset.


Absinthe
Through August 31
Pier 17, South Street Seaport, South Street & Beekman Street
Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes with one intermission
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: TicketCentral