How much fun can you possibly expect from a pocket-sized circus consisting of a mere couple of clowns? Plenty, as demonstrated by “Cirkus Inferno,” currently visiting the New Victory for four weeks. Jonah Logan and Amy Gordon whip themselves into a comic frenzy in this charming and inventive proscenium circus.
Logan, founder of the Canada-based Daredevil Opera Company, seems a mild fellow one might take to be a grammar school music teacher. Gordon (a transplanted New Yorker) is something of a combination of rag doll, Carol Burnett and Olive Oyl.
They first appear climbing across the mezzanine rail, spilling gallons of popcorn on the customers below. An officious and exceedingly French theater manager, M. Juste Parfait — played by Anthony Venisse, the only other onstage performer — appears, demanding that they clean up the popcorn scattered down the center aisle, if not the quantity they have dumped, literally and howlingly, on the patrons’ heads.
That’s the setup, in its entirety. While one or the other of the lead performers attempts to find custodial supplies, the other does one of the four acts that make up the evening. These include liberal doses of pyrotechnic and sound effects of the cartoon variety. (At one point, Gordon fights the “fire” by dousing the audience with streams of water.) Best image of the act, perhaps, is the bowling ball-sized bomb with sparkling fuse, a 3-D manifestation of what the cartoonist used to draw in the “Spy vs. Spy” feature in Mad magazine.
Daredevil Opera, now in its 11th year, describes its shows as “live-action cartoon,” which is pretty apt. “Cirkus Inferno” owes its name to a Buster Keaton film, and there are at least a couple of specific Charlie Chaplin references in evidence.
Clean-the-house concept pays off with the final act, which includes a janitorial contraption that features a long vacuum hose. It doesn’t clean, exactly, but serves as a snake-charmer act, removes the toupee from atop Mr. Perfect’s dome and — in a remarkable and hilarious touch — turns Logan into the Pillsbury doughboy. Then the whole thing explodes, literally so, strewing streamers, confetti and paper whatnot throughout at least the ground floor of the venerable old playhouse.
This will be a rough engagement for the cleaning crew at the New Victory but a joyful month for the children and parents lucky enough to visit.