I’m not even sure what a circus is anymore. Though they always seem to involve some kind of physical daring and a strange, drifty sense of humor, their snappy one-liners get lost in the big top — or, in the case of the Kinetic Arts’ annual holiday show, Circus Veritas, the rather large warehouse. What I am sure of is that whatever the circus is in 2017, Kinetic Arts has found a way to its slippery soul.
Under Jaron Hollander's inventive direction, the company's productions are more about a state of mind than mind-boggling stunts. There are many feats, some of them verging on the spectacular, but they occur in the service of conveying the aspirations and failures of people. We aren’t watching acrobats and contortionists, but vain, silly, headlong characters who fly through the air in nutty poses, and often for all the wrong reasons.
The show’s emcee, Frank Conner Ponzi III (a sly Ross Travis), starts the evening by simply talking to the audience, a calming approach in a world overcome by spectacle and sensation. He’s one of these southern hucksters, halfway between a minister and a snake-oil salesman, and his con is so obvious that it’s comforting rather than menacing.
Ponzi III tries to sell a special seat for $100, plies the audience for volunteers, and promises to help us overcome the “evil snake of reality.” The atmosphere is casual, intimate, and jokey, though by the end, this afterthought of a beginning will approach something close to a philosophy.
When the cast appears in monk costumes and wanders through the audience asking, “My name is John the Baptist, who are you?” (or the “Easter Bunny,” or “Peanut Butter and Jelly,” or “Mary Poppins” or “A music box ballerina”), the whole piece has the feel of a fairytale world springing to life.