Tuesday, January 18, 2011

'Circus Incognitus' Clowns Around at the Kirk Douglas

When he wasn't balancing a folded piece of paper on his nose, "Circus Incognitus" creator and performer Jamie Adkins was spiriting it into several white bouncy balls.

And from the chirping sounds in the family-filled audience at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City on Saturday, the one-time Cirque du Soleil performer was making some new fans in the process -- my little clown included.

Adkins had lots of tricks up his sleeve, as well as such controlled movement that allowed for chair-balancing, ping-pong antics, as well as juggling -- with his mouth.

One audience favorite was an interactive bit, in which Adkins handed out oranges for people to throw at him and which he would then catch with a fork balanced in his mouth. While CC raised her hand wildly, the fruit was (wisely) handed to older patrons who wouldn't maim theatergoers in the process. The piece de resistance of that act? An airborne cantaloupe -- but I won't spoil the surprise for that one.

Perhaps the most spectacular act in the show featured Adkins walking a tightrope, which he strung up himself while balancing on a purposefully rickety ladder (see photo above). This part of the show was a real stunner, as he then proceeded to juggle on the tightrope as well.

Adkins got his start by observing street performers in San Diego's Balboa Park, and that refined street sensibility comes through in his act. He's been described as "Chaplinesque," which is accurate, as he bumbles good-naturedly around the stage while saying almost nothing and conveying emotions through facial expressions or mime.

After the show, which is included in Center Theatre Group's Theatre Education Program, Adkins accepted audience questions, which mostly focused on "How did you do that?" His repeated answer: Practice!

CC was a little bummed that she wasn't called. Her hand was raised the entire time.

"What did you want to ask him, Sweetheart?" I asked her, certain that she wanted to know, as most of the kids in the audience, how he did one trick or another.

"I wanted to know why he didn't use those poles," she answered, referring to the poles holding up each end of the tightrope.

Considering he used every stage prop except for those, I don't blame her for asking. Here's hoping she gets a chance next time.

Circus Incognitus
Kirk Douglas Theatre
9820 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Tickets: $20; $10 for season members
Remaining performances: Jan. 22 (11 a.m.; 3 p.m.); Jan. 23 (3 p.m.)

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