Christmas, 1963. At 20 minutes before 8 p.m., Pacific Standard Time, weather watchers observe several explosions of incandescent hydrogen gas, occurring at regular intervals on a planet called Cirque. The gas begins moving with enormous velocity toward the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.
The invasion of Sin City by Cirque citizens, desperate to glean the secrets of American variety entertainment, has begun. Thirty performers and 99 captive audience members touch down to seek out and capture Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack in order to steal their talent sources and return to the planet Cirque, where they will analyze their findings. Thirty years later, the aliens will synthesize their research into an all-new entertainment concept that will reinvade Vegas and take over every venue.
The Actors' Gang, with Cirque du Soleil comic act designer Stefan Haves and his entourage of Cirque aerialists, puppets, jugglers, vocalists and tap dancers, is re-enacting these fateful (fictional) events in a show called Atomic Holiday Free-Fall. Among the performers are Godfrey Daniels, a clown and mime, and Michael Carbonaro, the world's top shaving-cream-on-face sculptor, who has performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and at the Magic Castle.
Haves' production is meant to be a holiday confection wrapped in science fictions. Audiences are part of the high-speed rocket launch and flying saucer ride through space, reimagined via fluorescent mazes and a dizzying array of Cirque-style acts that Haves describes as Busby Berkeley on acid.
But the show differs from actual Cirque du Soleil fare by focusing specifically on clowning and outrageous comic riffs. Haves' work is based on the tradition of the French commedia-style movement and gesture of master performer Jacques Lecoq, who trained everyone from Geoffrey Rush to Isla Fisher, and he takes his comedy seriously.
Compared with Cirque, the show is "way more quirky eccentric in terms of the clown work," Haves explains. "The caliber of artists is Cirque-like, but the comedy and the story line are uniquely my own. My job is to be with clowns and be a comedy designer."
Atomic Holiday Free-Fall is at the the Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation 9070 Venice Blvd Culver City, CA 90232; Dec.8-22. 310-838-GANG www.theactorsgang.com
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