Chris Lashua, who founded the company in 2005 presents Pedal Punk at the historic New Victory Theater in Times Square, New York. The theater used to be called Minsky’s Burlesque Theater and was notorious for getting raided by the Flatfoots.
The show is excellent. There is not much toss juggling, though. There is a high-level diabolo act, as well as good unicycling, rola-bola, hula hoops, and Cyr wheel.
One thing there isn’t is any way of knowing what anybody’s name is. They don’t announce it and the program lists the performer’s names without their pictures.
The show starts with an ensemble piece that showcases the team ‘s acrobatic skills. Two minutes in and you know you spent your money wisely. Their Olympic style flips, flips with twists, kips, and double flips are even more astonishing while they are being executed inches away from each other all at the same time.
The artists take a breather off-stage and the theme and characters are now set up. Some guy in a bike shop. That’s it. But it works because this is a bike shop like no other with penny farthings, unicycles, tandem cycles, and various contraptions all hanging from the elaborate moving scaffolding, the Gantry Bike.
The Gantry Bike is a multi-storied, pedal and gear powered, rolling frame work. It weighs in at 3000 pounds and has multiple pedal stations around its perimeter but can be operated by a minimum of two people. Similar contraptions have been built before but this design is unique and original to Pedal Punk. Its top speed is 5 miles an hour, indoor or out, and takes a team of four an hour and a half to construct and deconstruct.
The ladies enter and do a two girl aerial act on a high flying penny farthing. The diaboloist is next. He does one, two, and three diabolo’s including excalibur with one, numerous suicides and suns with two and very low columns, and shower and shuffle with three rolled off their scaffolding from thirty feet up.
Hula hoop girl followed by unicycle duo are next and both are quite innovative. In fact, each act goes the extra distance to make their routine a little more difficult here, and a bit more original there. This throughout the entire show. For example, the hula girl does much of her act precariously perched on a small space high on the scaffolding including Bob Bramson style rolls, and the unicycle is largely performed while having stuff thrown at them. There is also a bull-fight using parts of the unicycle and disembodied handle-bars.
I was expecting high-level artistic bicycle (also called BMX) and wasn’t disappointed. Spins, stalls, balances, and hair-pin turns on one wheel flawlessly executed.
Then begins a repeating theme shtick in which the hapless cyclist needs his bike repaired and the loony mechanic fixes it, but replaces his wheels with square ones. The poor boy attempts to ride it several times throughout the performance and finishes at the end of the show with a comedic gem.
The mechanic is something of a metaphor, fixing not only the broken bike with a wrench and screwdriver, but also the broken spirit with laughter and wonder.
Next, a volunteer is chosen from the audience and the cyclist challenges him to a bike race on stage. They manage to do it using stationary exercise bikes and the good-sport dad wins by a hair.
The second half showcases the bigger acts, including Chinese pole, contortion, rola-bola, Cyr wheel, and a climatic Gantry trampoline, in which the more athletic performers go flying and landing on the frame, grabbing the overhead beams and holding on, holding on while another gymnast jumps and grabs his legs and stays there, and plummeting head first thirty feet and contorting into a safe landing position at the last second. How he does that twice a day and never misses I’ll never know. I mean if you’re juggling and you drop your club, ok, you pick it up and continue, but if you land wrong from this trampoline contraption you’re toast.
The rola-bola act was darn good and funny (no relation to the juggling act with that name), and included some toss juggling. From up there he first takes two hoops and gets them manipulated up his legs and over his contorted body and back down again. He then attempts five clubs and ends up settling for four. I asked the artist after the show why he doesn’t skip the five club attempt and only do four and he said it keeps the show fluid, unpredictable, and keeps him on edge. Since the rest of the show is so precise (while superficially appearing chaotic) it works to some extent.
Sometimes an artist will drop on a big trick deliberately and then execute the trick perfectly on the second try to make the trick look more difficult or make the audience care about it more. Since you can’t do that with acrobatics or someone’s something will get broken, it’s the juggling that’s offered up on the sacrificial alter of ‘no business like show business.’
Pedal Punk by Cirque Mechanics is appearing now through January 3rd. Tickets are $19 to $55. Pedal Punk will then hit the road and be available in Florida and other locations. The show is two hours long and includes an intermission.