There’s something in the water in Montreal. They pump out body-defying acrobatics wrapped in tongue-in-cheek excess like a virus. Despite the shared core, two Canadian exports leaped into town, and they couldn’t be more different. Traces, at the Union Square Theatre, makes Zarkana, at Radio City Music Hall, look like Cirque du So What?
Zarkana is like a bad online date. The poster is attractive, but what meets you at the door is bloated, obnoxious, and several inches short of promise. There’s a lot of heavy breathing, but I just sat there wishing they’d finish already so I could go home.
Traces is a cigarette short of a seal-the-deal first date. It is intimate, sexy, breathtaking, and sweaty. And the hotties on the poster actually showed up. There wasn’t enough body fat on the stage to cook up a 2 piece and a biscuit.
Traces isn’t an evening of never-before-seen tricks. As a matter of fact, there is very little that’s unexpected. What makes the show special is that each performer participates in every act. Many body circus acts show up for 10 minutes, flip physics the bird, and disappear into the wings. The seven artists in Traces weave in and out of the spotlight for 90 minutes, mastering multiple acrobatic styles (poles, chairs, skateboards, tumbling, and jumping) and multiple artistic styles (everyone plays the piano, several sing, and all display comedic charm).
The second, special treat of the evening is that you get to meet the people behind the tricks. They introduce themselves, give you peeks at their individual personalities, and we even get to see baby pictures. That may sound a bit saccharine, but Traces is a full-octane adult beverage. The whole affair gets a little loud occasionally, but it is completely appropriate and expected.
Finally, the show delivers on its promise. The performers execute 100% of the tricks planned. That is not to say they get it right the first time, every time; but you get to see every trick, no cheats. Zarkana, with all its gaudy excesses and endless, overproduced caterwauling, was a disappointment start to finish. At the Union Square Theater, there wasn’t a Trace of disappointment.