A Second Look at Hephaestus
by Al Bresloff
Two things make this show distinctive from big-name circus shows that have become so popular in recent years: the cohesive plot line provided by the myth and the proximity of the audience to the circus performers. These are genuine high-flying entertainers, but in the beautiful, though small space in the waterworks, one feels less like being at the circus than being in the circus. This proximity puts the audience close enough to see minor flaws that might go unnoticed at a greater distance â€“ the performers are magnificent, though not always effortless â€“ but for me the excitement of being up close with the acrobats easily outweighs the distraction of seeing them strain at times. Such a view is a rare opportunity.
As for the story in this circus, it is as good as it could get. The wonderful cast, without so much as a spoken line and with full responsibility for dangerous high-flying stunts and some fancy drumming, manages to bring a surprising depth to the individual characters. Hernandezâ€™ Hephaestus is a sympathetic character, a genuine nice guy who has been grievously wronged and whose final physical triumph on the high wire has the audience breathlessly praying for the underdogâ€™s victory over cruelty. Contortionist Anya Stankusâ€™ Aphrodite is not the delicate flower we are accustomed to. She is instead deliciously seductive, with five sparkly hula hoops and the rest of what is needed to release Hephaestus from his loneliness and put a grin on his wearied visage. Their steamy little scene is one of my favorite moments in the show because it is simultaneously erotic and innocent enough for any family outing. A quintet of Silver Guys (Jarett Dapier, Nich Galzin, Rick Kubes, Richie McGuire, Almas Meirmanov) â€“ all forged by Hephaestus â€“ provide an assortment of tricks and stunts that move the show along. These guys also lead the entire cast in creating some powerful drumming that is reminiscent of Blue Man Group in its creativity. Since no show of this type is complete without at least one fabulous strong man, Hephaestus: A Greek Mythology Circus Tale has one: pint-sized Almas Meirmanovâ€™s gymnastic physicality as Heraâ€™s powerful messenger god Ares, is stunning.
While not a theatre piece in the strict sense of the word, Hephaestus: A Greek Mythology Circus Tale is wonderful entertainment that will please everyone. Abigail Droeger is a highly talented young actress with limitless potential and a precious voice. Her masterful performance as the child narrator â€“ onstage the entire time â€“ gives the story its fairy-tale feel. I felt that Abigail should have had her own curtain call at the end of the performance because this tiny mortal managed to soar above the high-flying and flashy action of the collective gods. Hephaestus: A Greek Mythology Circus Tale is wonderful entertainment for all. There is simply nothing not to like.