THE WILLIAM DARKE PSYCHO CIRCUS & FREAK SHOW SPECTACULAR
Thanks to Jim Rose and Lollapalooza, sideshows are very hip right now. Which is bad news for sideshow lovers: for every troupe that's got its act together there's another, like the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, getting lots of press for a show that's pretty lame but that photographs well and sounds good in print. William Darke's troupe, which just finished a tour with the band 13 Mg, isn't nearly as flamboyant, photogenic, or aggressively heroin chic as the Bindlestiffs, though it does feature a man with two pierced nipples. This show has all the usual sideshow acts--eating fire, throwing knives, juggling chain saws, resting on a bed of nails--but what's unexpected is the relaxed, offhand way ringmaster William Darke and his performers accomplish these feats. Sometimes it seems they're just showing off all the geek tricks they know--like how to drive a nail into your nose, lick a flaming baton, or balance a running lawn mower on your chin--and the audience just happens to catch them fooling around. The lack of the usual barker bluster lulls us, lowers our defenses, and encourages us to root for them. On the night I saw the show, Dextre Tripp looked a little too tired (or hungover) to be a very good knife thrower--then wowed us by not killing the woman volunteer from the audience, performing the most dangerous part of his act with breathtaking grace and control. Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont, 773-486-7767. Through November 14: Thursdays-Fridays, 10 PM. $12 in advance; $15 at the door. --Jack Helbig
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.