"Speakeasy Circus": Leave Your Prohibitions at the Door

Rocco Lapaire in Boston Circus Guild's "Speakeasy Circus"

If you’re feeling frightfully frigid these days (and who isn’t?), there’s a jazzy joint that’s a red hot cure for that, transforming ART’s other Cambridge venue (Oberon at 2 Arrow Street) into the Oberon Social Club, a.k.a. “Speakeasy Circus”. As the name implies, it’s part speakeasy and part circus, as well as a theater, and a lot more, and all for a modest bit of cold cash. What it is, you see, is an underground cabaret, a polyglot pastiche of some sophisticated swingers, with hardy hoopists, athletic acrobatics, artistic aerialists, joint-twisting jugglers…and a dash or two of old burlesquers, bootleggers and broads. (You’ll have to excuse the politically incorrect term; it’s decades before our more enlightened days). It’s the creation of the Boston Circus Guild, and if you’re not already a fan of this group, you sure will be once you’ve seem them in action. Founded in 2009 by its Creative Director Charles “Handsome Chuck” Lechien Jr., it’s a lot more theatrical than the traditional circus, with more of a narrative, though the storytelling is accomplished mainly through movement. It’s sort of high quality dinner theater, without the rubber chicken.

Mixing the art of professionally trained dancers and musicians with the science of physical prowess is the marvelous magic of a contemporary circus. This one is quite different from some nationally produced mega circuses whose performances, while awe-inducing, can seem robotic. At this production, you’re up close and sometimes very personal with a very enthusiastic and personable troupe; don’t be surprised if you find one of those denizens of the deep at your chair side. Or if the band director looks suspiciously like good old Handsome Chuck himself. Anything can happen; after all, they don’t call them the Roaring Twenties for nothing. It all devolves from a very clever conceit that we’ve been assembled to take part in a “libarry” (“libation-ary” would be more exact) for a book club discussion, in which even the programs have a role in establishing the mood and milieu. There follow a dozen or so acts interspersed with musical breaks for drinking and dancing (and these people really move; there wasn’t an unlimber joint in the joint). These range from sole to group juggling, to balancing gymnasts while stripping (this you just have to see), to ballet in drag, to lots of high flying and low humor, accompanied by flirtatious flappers. If the raunchy and rowdy, as well as hot bods and cold brew, are not your thing, you may want to check your pulse. Despite the fact that the novel that was the subject of this meeting was “All Quiet on the Western Front”, the audience of undoubtedly ardent book-lovers lapped it all up, with lots of audible expressions of amazement.

Got a lot of cares and woes? Fuhgeddaboudit. Loosen up with this group, at Oberon for a limited time only, specifically next week on the nights of January 14th and 15th at 8pm, January 16th at 7:30pm, and January 17th at 7:00pm. So if winter’s already getting too much to bear, or your seasonally malajusted mood is as grouchy as a bear, be sure to head for the welcoming warmth of “Speakeasy Circus”. Just tell ‘em South Shore Critic sent ya.

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