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“Join the circus inside your mind,” sings actress/performer Lindsey Noel Whiting, strumming her ukulele, facing a mute dreamer played by professional clown Dean Evans. Daydreams and their physical embodiment make up the spectacle of the breathtaking and brilliantly crafted “The Magical Exploding Boy and the Invisible Circus,” presented by the Actors Gymnasium, Evanston’s circus arts/physical theatre school and performance organization.
As in past productions such as “Skooled” and “Science Fiction,” the cast is a motley crew of rambunctious kids and acrobatic teens and professional circus performers. Contrary to past performances, however, this one intentionally lacks a cohesive story. Instead, the audience bears witness to a celebration of the absurd, as the dreamer-hero, played by Mr. Evans, eschews the monotony of reality by dissolving into the playground of his imagination.
Mr. Evans vividly mimed sea creatures with his hands, realistically depicted a spacewalk –planting a flag in the hand of an unsuspecting member of the audience – and pulled off a bit with baby doll parts both jaw-dropping and indescribable. He is an immense talent, and the Actors Gymnasium is the beneficiary each time he joins their cast.
Will Howard and Lindsey Noel Whiting (both from “Skooled”) are eye-popping in their respective roles as the strong man and the musical narrator. Joining them in the “Professional Artist” ranks are Simone Lazar, whose contortionist and lyra (aerial hoops) acts are a marvel, and Javen Ulambayar, an astounding talent on Chinese bar and a veritable whirling dervish on straps, both requiring great strength and agility.
The “Teen Ensemble” and “Young Artists” showcase their talents as well – singing, drumming, tumbling, acting – a tour de force of circus performers blossoming before the eyes of the spectators. The kids don business suits, roll their eyes at the seemingly ambitionless character embodied by Mr. Evans, and somehow pull off a clean riff on “Glengarry Glen Ross,” infusing the play with an ironic tone that should resonate with anyone who has ever spent time in a cubicle.
Evanston residents can be grateful for their thriving theatre community, one with such dedicated and gifted artistic directors whose visions encompass physical theatre. Larry DiStasi and Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi (the Actors Gymnasium) and John Szostek (Piccolo Theatre) firmly planted their roots and respective theatre companies in Evanston years ago and have not only brought in talent for their productions, their performers were often students at the same facilities where they now star.
“The Magical Exploding Boy and the Invisible Circus” runs through March 23 at Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St. Tickets may be purchased at www.actorsgymnasium.org or 847-328-3495.