Fool’s Journey: A Misfit Circus Cabaret at Chopin Theatre

Where does a fool’s journey begin and end? The Misfit Circus attempted to answer that question on opening night as a cavalcade of Tarot cards, quirky characters and stellar circus acts created an ambiance that was a bit burlesque, a bit vaudeville and a lot of camp and mystique. In the first evening among several (Fool’s Journey will run Thursday through Saturday until August 13 at Chopin Theatre), we got to experience trapeze, contortion, juggling, a birthday song, a rope act, a hammock act, a hand balancing act, much appreciated live music, a pogo stick commercial break, more juggling, several dance numbers and a stunning tight wire finale. The sheer number of acts was quite a feat from this cast of five performers.

Molly Plunk played the Empress (a parody of a gentile fortune-teller) and clownlike MC who gently engaged the audience until it was her turn to perform a poignant wire act, with which she brought down the house.

Natalie Abell played Strength incarnate, a role that suits her power-packed persona and her performing style. She did three numbers: one, a burlesque-themed duo act with Linnea Ridolfi—a tribute to love that played with elements of contortion, hand balancing and acrobatics. The second act was a measured and solid hand balancing solo and the third was an intense and fiery rope number that really showcased Abell’s strength and skill on the apparatus. As if that wasn’t enough of a workout for one night, she also exercised her lungs by belting out a rousing rendition of “Magic Man” accompanied by the band while Brian P. Dailey performed a dynamic ring juggling routine.

Brian P. Dailey was the Moon, and his first solo featured a moon projection that created a stirring vibe as he demonstrated his signature club juggling techniques, playing with modern techniques of balance and repetition, rolling clubs off his shoulder, and finding the sweet spot on his head and arms to stall the motions. His second act was a stark and fascinating piece accompanied by a solo hand drum. Dailey’s juggling added to the music however as he spun a whirly tube around to create odd whistling pitches and tones while eventually adding stage balls and doing an interesting mix of three balls and contact juggling. In his final act, Dailey made great use of his seven juggling rings, moving seamlessly from vertical to horizontal and body contact styles in a captivating flow state. Unfortunately, the visuals of the projection system were set to psychedelic for this number and they competed with our attention, making it difficult to see clearly what was happening.

Linnea Ridolfi was the Hermit, a reluctant creature who had to be coaxed out of her silk hammock to illustrate her many strengths, and who also was part of the burlesque duo with Abbell. Ridolfi has the perfect combination of stage presence and embodiment while performing, which makes the quality of her movement riveting on the ground or in the air.

Chloe Zabicki played the Star on the opening number on trapeze, and later on pogo and during her corporate takeover of the MC position. Zabicki has a real knack for comedic timing and was able to work it to hilarious levels with her burlesque pogo stick number.

Some small issues popped up with opening night that will most likely be resolved as the show goes on. It  could benefit by either adding an intermission or instead rotating or cutting a few acts so that the it is 15-20 minutes shorter. The use of projections in each act could be scrutinized to assure that they truly augment the visuals, and the setting could be tweaked along with a few of the costumes to fit the narrative and time period more consistently.

Those opening night kinks aside, this new company really rivets the audience with their skill level and their willingness to create their own brand of entertainment. Their combined talents and the wow factor of the circus shine through in every scene and make it a perfect date night or night out with friends.

Tickets range from $27-$36 at Chopin Theatre and the cabaret style bar is right in the room with the show.

Kim Campbell
Kim Campbell

Kim Campbell (they/them) is a freelance editor, podcaster and creative writer who has spent a career focusing on the arts, particularly literature, theater and circus. Former editor of CircusTalk News, they have written about theater and circus for Third Coast Review since its very beginning. Kim is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the International Network of Circus Arts Magazines. In 2019, they were on the jury of FIRCO in Madrid (Circus Festival Iberoamericano) and in 2021 they were on the voting committee for the International Circus Awards. See their tweets at @kimzyn or follow them on Instagram.

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