In times of pain, needless violence, and gunshots, glimpses of circus-like brilliance and pathos carry us to different (and more whimsical) dimensions. Impossible! A Happenstance Circus performed by Happenstance Theater at Round House Theatre entertains, sneaks up on you, and snaps you awake.
Artistic directors and performers Sabrina Mandell and Mark Jaster are joined onstage by performers Karen Hansen, Gwen Grastorf, Sarah Olmsted Thomas, and Alex Vernon in this intriguing collage of circus scenes. As Mandell and Jaster note in the program, “the value of imagination and entertainment when times are tough seems as relevant today as ever.”
Each performer plays countless roles. Jaster is a seasoned physical actor and shines as numerous circus animals and Mandell plays her roles admirably. Grastorf shows off impressive jazzy vocals in “I Don’t Want to Set the World On Fire.” Olmsted Thomas is hilarious in a variety of roles from a tightrope artist in a tutu to “The Human Pretzel.” Vernon is charming and dashing, eliciting heart flutters as a lonely man on stilts and roaring laughter as Professor Freeman (I challenge you not to laugh at that face – you’ll know the one).
Karen Hansen steals the show with her beautiful voice, stunning presence, and musical performances on too many instruments to count. Fun fact: Hansen has a background in Early Music Performance. She also arranged and/or composed all of the music in Impossible! A Happenstance Circus.
IMPOSSIBLE! A HAPPENSTANCE CIRCUS
Closes Sunday, February 9, 2014
Round House Theatre
8641 Colesville Rd.
Silver Spring, Maryland
1 hour, 20 minutes, no intermission
Wednesday thru Sunday
Details and tickets
Music plays a huge role in Impossible! A Happenstance Circus. Every performer plays an instrument from the violin to the ukulele to the musical saw. One of the most outrageous and breathtaking moments is when the cast sings a song consisting only of “doo-doo” together downstage.
The set is appropriately simplistic and slightly shabby because the magic is making beauty out of nothing. A pale blue sky and an elephant shadow puppet speak to our heart and purple high heels and full skirts (fantastic costumes by Sabrina Mandell) dazzle our eyes. Kris Thompson’s elegant, clear light design helps create the illusions – Olmsted Thomas walks on a tightrope made of light.
Impossible! A Happenstance Circus reminds us to seek happiness in small ways – they add up.
Impossible! A Happenstance Circus . featuring Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell, Karen Hansen, Gwen Grastorf, Sarah Olmsted Thomas and Alex Vernon . Produced by Happenstance Theatre . Reviewed by Rebecca Evans.