a kate west review
written by Suzanne Bernel, Kevin Bourque, Neal Everett, Barry Primus
music by Kevin Bourque
choreography by John Carrafa
directed by Barry Primus
at Club Nokia
Add a little Tim Burton-esque goth to a cirque-de-soleil style circus troupe and you get Cirque Berzerk, now playing in downtown Los Angeles' Club Nokia. Not the same top notch flawlessness as the Soleil troupe, but Berzerk definitely still has talent.
The theme is death (very in your face all evening) and a simple plot of a girl dressed in red (Emilie Livingston) who descends into hell, or purgatory or something, and is slowly seduced by the depravity of the departed. Everyone else is wearing black, including quite a number of audience members (so keep that in mind when dressing for the evening). Death himself (Kevin Bourque, also one of the creators) makes an appearance or two and harasses our heroine throughout the night. Clinging from brass rails and perching on cane-backs are the motley crew of the deceased, all cavorting and writhing in the background, to give us a sense of menace.
Aside from the basic plot of corrupting an innocent, there is not much else to the story, so it must be fleshed out with death-defying circus acts, like fire-swallowing, the requisite trapeze acts, bungee artists, contortionists and dancers and women on silks. The best act happens in the first half when four virile men bounce off a wall dividing two trampolines (Wesley Hatfield, Michael Hill, Michael Redinger and Russel Stark). They suspend horizontally in mid-air, zooming back to do it all over again. Very well done. A flexible young Hayley Kent bends backwards, while walking on her hands as if it weren't impossible and Neal Everett and Tavi Stutz spin on straps with the strongest, tautest muscles you've ever seen. Suzanne Bernel (also co-founder) has a nice turn on long red silks and our lady in red (Livingston) gets in some twirling herself by the end.
We also have a very basic clown (Brady Spindel) on stilts who pops in from time to time. Don't worry, there is no audience participation during the main show. We even have a little person as a petulant Madame (Katrina Kemp). Then there are three sirens (Antonia Bath, Jessice Childress and Gretchen McNeil) who wail mysteriously to a live band. The music isn't as apropos as a soleil show, but it works in the goth world.
Not that all these physical feats aren't amazingly and properly impressive, but that's pretty much it for the show. We get the theme once we take our seats, so the macabre starts to be a tad repetitive. The "plot" is the weakest link, but no matter since we have so much to look at with all the jumping and bondage style clothes (thank Mikiko Nagao and Heather Goodman). Plus the theater is done up in a cabaret style setting, the multi-lounges are fun and cool and the decor is goth retro. You can even browse some gypsy-like vending tables and buy leather, while munching popcorn.
They do create an agreeable carnival atmosphere so it's just as much fun to oggle the patrons as it is the performers, and since you'll get to meet both, if you're so inclined, you be the final judge.