Theater review | Traces
Where Cirque du Soleil and its cohort have popularized circus arts as slick and stadium-sized, Montreal-based 7 Fingers brings the spectacle back down to a human scale—and possibly inspires more awe. Traces sets impressive acrobatics against a contemporary, youthful-feeling milieu, eschewing the Technicolor spangle and Lloyd Webber–like scores of Cirque in favor of muted-palette street clothes and a soundtrack of Radiohead and Blackalicious.
It’s not just that the talented young performers are seen up close and life-size (the show is better matched to the cozy Broadway Playhouse than any I’ve seen there); it’s that we get to know them as themselves instead of characters or ciphers. In a pair of cheeky bits early on, a mic drops from the heavens for the cast’s six men and one woman to tell us about themselves: name, hometown, date of birth, self-descriptive adjectives, a story about a grandfather. Through these intros, and then their interactions with one another, we get so personal with the cast members that Traces could almost be mistaken for a particularly athletic Neo-Futurists show.
Our investment in the performers as people is key: Traces lightly explores the marks we leave on one another, whether by direct contact (as in the sensual hand-to-hand acrobatic duet between Mason Ames and Valérie Benoît-Charbonneau) or near misses (Bradley Henderson and Xia Zhengqi on Chinese poles, leaping past each other in midair). The acrobatics are inventive and increasingly astonishing, culminating in an astounding hoop-jumping climax. Thrilling, sexy and sincere, Traces leaves a hell of an impression.