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NY Theater Reviews

Photo:Richard Termine


By Matt Windman

What is a spiegeltent? No, it's not a tent full of spiegel catologues. Rather, it's a hodge podge of varied acts, part circus, part erotica

So, what exactly is a spiegeltent?

Per definition, it is a kind of traveling European music hall covered by canvas, glass and mirrors. Originally popular in the early 20th century, it has been somewhat revitalized lately in Europe and Australia. In New York, for the second year in a row, such an attraction has parked at Pier 17 on the East River for a three-month late summer engagement Its varied acts consist mainly of cabaret singers, performance artists and circus troupes.

Absinthe 2007, an unusual mixture of a variety show featuring circus wonders, erotic physiques and European cabaret named after the French liquor of the same name, is again serving as the Spiegeltent's main attraction. Instead of clowns, we get minimally clad acrobats, strippers and grotesque personalities. Instead of an arena or traditional theater, the Spiegeltent is surprisingly intimate, with only a few rows of audience members surrounding the action who are often confronted by the actors.

As would be expected, there is no storyline connecting the various acts. Still, it all adds up to an overabundant, overwhelming atmosphere of sex and alcoholic colliding with purple lighting, Judy Garland and Elvis songs, burlesque, roller-skating, balloon act, aerialists and traditional vaudeville.

Created by the Montreal-based 7 Fingers, La Vie is being advertised as the late-night companion piece to Absinthe and the Ying to the Yang of Absinthe. Perhaps this is in reference to the fact that female nudity is displayed in Absinthe, while male nudity is displayed in La Vie. Otherwise, in terms of content, the two productions are almost interchangeable, though La Vie, is probably the darker of the two. And to the credit of La Vie, the show uses a death/afterlife motif to thematically unite all of its spectacles.

Viewing Absinthe and La Vie back-to-back would involve sitting through four straight monotonous hours of circus. We don't recommend it. However, viewing one or the other alone could provide some fun, somewhat smutty summertime entertainment.

Did we mention that beer gardens are located both inside and outside the tent.