Barely Balanced: Acrobatic Daredevils | Fringe Fest 2011 review
Dressed in suspendered, classic circus outfits with stirrup legwarmers colored ketchup red, mustard yellow and Google blue, the three self-taught stuntsters of Ohio group Barely Balanced warmly welcomed audience members to their third of five shows at the Meridian Stage. (They also eagerly chatted with fans after the show ended.) Friends who met while working at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, “Small” (Margret Ebert), “Medium” (Cameron Tomele) and “Large” (James Freer) have showmanship licked; not once during Acrobatic Daredevils did my attention wane.
Granted, much of this had to do with the possibility that bloody, extreme, permanent damage could befall the performers at any moment. The group’s stock in trade is high-risk knife-juggling and bone-bending body-stacking, performed without safeguards and at the upper end of its abilities (although it’s likely that most of the trio’s shaky, can-we-really-pull-this-off nervousness is just for show). Two setpieces featured folks plucked from the crowd—cherry-picked, not volunteers—the second of which ingeniously flip-flopped the fate of its “victim.”
Their camaraderie was infectious; each successful stunt was celebrated with a superhero pose or cartoonlike fist- or chest-bump which betrayed just how much fun they were having (tons). Lewd or juvenile asides (“Happiness is like peeing your pants: Everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth”) and mock modesty set a tone to which it was impossible not to subscribe.
My only complaint is about the handful of gay panic jokes between Freer and Tomele during tricks that required one’s face to go near the other man’s ass or crotch. No group—especially not one this talented, loveable and warm—should pander to those who are ashamed of their bodies while demonstrating how awesome the body can be.