Just the thought of an afternoon of clowns leaping around trying frantically to entertain an auditorium full of little Nintendo-heads brings back memories of my little brother's seventh birthday party. An unnaturally happy woman with pink hair, red nose, bad breath, and one balloon-into-poodle trick she kept repeating over and over "entertained" until my brother (and a handpicked pack of his better friends) left to go play with his new toys. But Steve Smith's gaggle of clowns are different. For one, Smith is a veteran of the Ringling Brothers' Barnum and Bailey Circus and a former director of its Clown College, and the proof that he has much higher standards than cut-rate Bozos is in his show, which features a cast of trained clowns (several of whom appeared in the long-running Midnight Circus) who tumble, juggle, and pratfall their way through this homage to the Great American Circus. Some of the bits are quite ancient, and not all are performed with the artistry of top-flight clowning a la Cirque du Soleil. But these clowns executed even the sloppiest routines with such commitment, energy, and sheer boisterous love of the craft that even the younger kids, not to mention their easily distracted parents, were won over. North Shore Country Day School, Diller Street Theatre, 310 Green Bay, Winnetka, 773-262-9848. Through December 7: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, 10:30 AM; Saturdays-Sundays, 2 PM; Friday, November 28, 2 PM only; no show Thursday, November 27. Then at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport, 773-262-9848. December 11 through 13: Thursday-Friday, 10:30 AM; Saturday, 2 PM. Then December 15 through 20: Monday-Friday, 10:30 AM; Saturday, 2 PM. $10; $5 for children. --Jack Helbig
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): theater still.