Circus Oz | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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As a kid I hated circuses. The ringmaster was always making a lot of noise about nothing. The animal acts always looked like exercises in sadism. And the clowns, that band of bozos, never seemed funny. My attitude changed last fall when I checked out the eye-pleasing, mind-blowing Cirque du Soleil from Montreal. Now, part of the International Theatre Festival, Australia's Circus Oz is coming to town. Like Cirque du Soleil, Circus Oz has gotten rid of all the tiresome circus cliches--the hokey music, the sad-looking costumes, and the cruel animal tricks. But unlike its French-Canadian counterpart (which, for all its virtues, is a bit self-important and overblown), Circus Oz has created a show that always makes time for comedy. Even in the middle of an aerial act or a highly disciplined display of gymnastics, there's a little Monty Python-esque tomfoolery--as when the hapless telephone repairman interrupts the trampoline act, then becomes part of it. But the comedy never trivializes the acts themselves. Quite the opposite, in fact: nothing is more dazzling than an aerialist who can make you laugh as she swings high above the crowds. Defying death is easy; comedy is hard. Blackstone Theatre, June 10 and 11 (60 E. Balbo, 644-3378 or 664-3370). Wednesday, 7:30 PM; Thursday, 8:15 PM. $10-$25, $5-$12.50 for children.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ponch Hawkes.

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