Theater Review: ‘42 FT: A Menagerie of Mechanical Marvel’

A one-ring circus, and then some

NEW YORK—Before viewing “42 FT,” I was informed that it contained everything that a full-blown three-ring circus would provide, just less of it. That’s true to a point, but what “42 FT” does provide is a group  of 12 enthusiastic, charismatic performers whose inner glow dazzles far beyond whatever limitations might be inherent in the limited space that off-Broadway’s The New Victory Theater offers.

Although I was taken aback when I saw that the production would take place on a basic, proscenium stage, my fears were abated when clown-mime Justin Therrien introduced us to the world of “42 FT.” The title comes from the diameter of a standard circus ring.

Elegant Russian-born Tatiana Vasilenko proves her skill by juggling what seems to be six or so balls in the air, simultaneously, while atop a moving mechanical horse. Later, she demonstrates that she can fly from a trapeze with the heart-stopping best of artists.

A later act shows most of the cast executing nerve-firing somersaults high in the air, then landing individually on a shabby mattress put into place at the last second by two of the other performers.

Esther de Monteflores performs just about anything one could imagine on a slack wire, starting simply by just sitting on it, then graduating walking on it and, if my memory serves me, doing a somersault or two and landing safely on it. The remarkable thing about Esther, and indeed all the cast, is that they perform the most difficult, life-threatening acts always with a relaxed mien and a confident smile.

I found my back aching slightly after the show. I had empathized with the performers, and had tensed up during some of the more daredevil moments.

Strongman Battulga Battogtokh, who hails from Mongolia, easily lifts logs of wood that obviously outweigh him. He expands this initial feat by later lifting two women, in swings attached to the ends of the log.

The cast juggles, they jump, they somersault, they leap—often into unsupported empty space high above the stage below. Furthermore, not only do all the cast project ease when executing their feats, but do so with never-ending audience contact, thus making the show feel like a community event. This feeling is contagious, resulting in an audience of young and old becoming staunch fans of both circus, and theater itself.

At the noon matinee I attended, the theater was packed with a mix of all ages. (It’s recommended for those 5 years of age and up.) In an after-show Q and A several of the younger set confidently posed questions to the performers.

Creative director Chris Lashua and co-director and choreographer Aloysia Gavre are responsible for this splendid effort, which offers art, artistry, and a display of remarkable physical skills.

Here’s a lovely way to spend time over the holidays.

‘42 FT: A Menagerie of Mechanical Marvels’
The New Victory Theater
209 W. 42nd St.
Tickets: 646-223-3010 or NewVictory.org
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes (one intermission)
Closes: Jan. 5, 2020

Diana Barth writes for several theater publications, including “New Millennium.” She may be contacted at diabarth99@gmail.com

RECOMMENDED