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Some Things I Thought While in the Audience at Traces

  • Wow. Flexibility is awesome! Too bad I can’t even touch my toes.
  • These fools would come in handy if I ever wanted to pull off my own Oceans 11-style heist.
  • Spider-Man wasted a lot of money on sets and rigging and insanity, given that this shit cost max about 1/70th of that mess of a musical and it’s 100 bazillion times more compelling.
  • Holy shit I am so nervous and amped up for these guys that I am actually sweating bullets right now.

And I was.  Sweating, I mean.  Approximately ¾ of the way through the 90 minute show, the cast was doing a series of tumbling stunts.  Flipping and leaping and contorting their bodies, one by one they soared through an increasingly tall and unstable stack of hoops while a pulse beat loudly through the sound system and an EKG was displayed across the back wall.  By the time they’d stacked on the fourth hoop—they’d eventually get to five, I think. Or maybe six?—I was really, really hot.  And anxious.

Which is funny.  Because this was probably one of the less risky tricks the cast had performed all night. They were not dropping from an insane height with nothing but their own muscles to stop them, or being tossed 20 feet into the air by a companion as they flipped and twisted more times than I could count, landing on their feet in someone’s hands.  But that’s the thing about Traces.  They know how to build suspense.  How to pull you to the edge of your seat and make you actually care about the outcome of this feat of physical strength, dexterity, grace and precision.

My favorite number featured the lone female cast member, Valérie Benoît-Charbonneau, performing feats of derring-do with her nose buried in a book.  Flipping, rolling, performing handstands on a dilapidated old armchair, scarcely taking her eyes off the words.  It was such a bright, exciting performance—seriously, one child exclaimed “This is funny!” during the number—perhaps in particular because it so beautifully mirrored the squirmy, joyous feeling you get when you pick up a truly wonderful book.

After the show, in a bar, I attempted to explain exactly what Traces was.  Circus.  But on a human scale.  Circus that was as much about the humanity of the performers as it was about their physical prowess.  And there was dance, and street performance.  Piano playing.  Parkour.  Skateboarding. Basketball.  It was hard to capture Traces in words.  Damn near impossible.

At the end of the day, it was compelling.  Unexpectedly, unbelievably so.  The performance doesn’t just land well, it connects.  In an age where the spectacle of theater often risks supplanting the humanity of the art and the artists, Traces is decidedly low on flashy technology and tricks and high on real, human emotion.

Oh.  And all the cast members are hot and their bodies are sick. But that kind of goes without saying.

Ticket provided by The Hartman Group.

Photo: Michael Meseke

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