April 3, 2003

Mudlucious and Theatrewonderful

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Many families may have inhibitions about taking the whole family out to the theatre — a place where you cannot control the often controversial content — but this year’s Bring in the Spring offerings at the Kitchen Theatre certainly cater for the family day out. Among the variety of acts on offer is the artist simply known as “Hilby,” who will be performing his one-man act Circus Wunderbar (that’s wonderful circus, by the way) this weekend, April 5 and 6.

In his latest offering , Writer/Performer Hilby brings to life an international cast of characters who perform six circus acts: The ball spinning tricks of Spanish matador Enrico Gonzales; the disappearing act of the aptly named Ali Gone the magician; the feats of strength of Vladi the Uplifting Weightlifter; the fast-talking, speed juggling, Jerry Jim Johnson; and the antics of Mimo the Talking Mime. Before you say “wait that’s only five,” worry not, a mystery guest will also appear giving you a total of six characters for your six dollars — a pretty damn good ratio.

Circus Wunderbar is directed by Lesley Green whose other work includes The Portrait, the Wind, and the Chair and The Pirates of Penzance, both performed at the Kitchen Theatre. Green also worked with Kitchen Theatre Artistic Director Rachel Lampert on Lampert’s world premiere of Waltz.

Hilby, who was born in Germany but now resides in Ithaca, perfected his trade on the road and most notably in his years in Asia. As his Website, hilby.net, notes “Hilby is a truly international performer who is able to communicate through his humor with people of every nationality, size, shape and mental condition.”

Circus Wunderbar is packed with acrobatics and funny gags and will inevitably conjure up images of classic silent stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Hilby is renowned for his no-boundaries style, and says he is living proof that being German doesn’t mean you can’t be funny too.

Spring is undoubtedly a unique time of the year. No longer is spring just the coinciding season for celebrating Easter and Passover, instead, spring means something in terms of rituality to just about everyone. Likewise, despite the diversity of the annual Bring in the Spring events of the Kitchen Theatre, there is equal diversity away from the Ithacan Stage.

Take, for instance, Basketball. In the past weeks the nation has become immersed in arguably the biggest spring sporting ritual: March Madness. This ritual involves sports lovers and gamblers alike practicing their knowledge of the fabled bracketology, and the players themselves striving to be the ultimate upset team, and of course national champions. Closer to home, our Hockey boys have made the culmination of the Hockey season a spring ritual for the Lynah faithful. This ritual involves Cornellians turning out in the thousands to the Lynah rink, sagas of camping out for tickets, and cheering louder and more raucously than ever as we seek that number 1 ranking and frozen four status.

But sport is only religion for some. Others see spring rituals in vastly different forms. The Church of Satan uses the idea of spring ritual to writhe in the apparently evil world of strippers. You heard it. According to churchosatan.com their spring ritual involves “invoking nymphs to wake the lusts of Pan from wintery sleep.” They continue, “we added stripper music to bridge the solemnity of the ritual formalities into the dance performed by the nymphs.” So, another excuse to party.

Laura Pulfer of the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote an article in 1998 entitled An Agonizing Spring Ritual for Women. At first sight this seems to be about something more traditionally associated with ritual i.e. the idea of sacrifice. You’d be wrong again. Pulfer argues that the agonizing ritual for women is picking a bathing suit. Apparently, men just wouldn’t understand the pain they have to go through in order to get the right look. A fine example of individuality in spring rituality.