How I forgot to breathe at ‘Hephaestus’

Last night, at the recommendation of my friend Jamie (who was so excited after seeing the show, I asked her to write a guest review on this blog), I checked out Lookingglass Theatre’s hit production of Hephaestus: A Greek Mythology Circus Tale.

Tony Hernandez, who created the show for Lookingglass under his production company Silverguy Entertainment, has assembled some of the world’s most talented acrobatic acts. These fearless performers, many of whom make their entrances from the the ceiling, contort, spin and fly with grace and precision. And they do it all without a net or a harness and right above your head! One false move, and you’ll have a performer tumbling into your lap — or a few feet from it.

Is it no wonder that I had to keep reminding myself to breathe throughout this 90 minute spectacular?

But it’s not just a circus act; it’s theatre. These acts help tell the story of Hephaestus (let’s call him Hephie), the god of fire and blacksmiths. Hephie, who is crippled, is cast from Mount Olympus by his mother, Hera, as she finds him ugly. After years of isolation, he learns to create many things of beauty and danger out of metal — including a throne that traps his mother. In her goal to be released, Hera offers Hephie hottie Aphrodite (who is represented by Viktoria Grimmy, an absolutely amazing contortionist who you would never guess was the understudy). He falls in love (who wouldn’t when you see what she can do with a back bend?) and releases Hera, soon finding his rightful place back on Mount Olympus.

Our narrator for the evening is a young girl (Khori Faison) who, in her attempt to escape from her arguing parents, dives into a book on this greek legend. And, as such things go, the book comes to life before her eyes. It’s a simple concept that works. Faison, who shares this role with another young actress, is a natural performer with a sweet, pure voice. I suspect we’ll be seeing more of her.

But those acts! Wow. As Iris, messenger to the gods, Erendira Vazquez Wallenda delivers her message to Hephie by way of a heart-racing trapeze act. Lijana Wallenda-Hernandez embodies the self-centered Hera, and wows the crowd by spinning on a giant hoop — her throne. (Wallanda-Hernandez also designed the spectacular costumes and choreographed some of the acts.) The Anastasini Brothers (who really don’t fit into the story, but were amazing nonetheless. I suspect they were last-minute additions, as their bios are on an insert) perform an amazing act where the older brother (Fabio) flips his younger brother (Giuliano) in the air with his feet. Last night Giuliano took a tumble, but a spotter caught him effortlessly. Again: remember to breathe!

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the performers band together to accomplish the finale. As my partner Gator said as they were executing the seven-person tightrope pyramid: “Uh uh!”

I could go on an on, but just see this show for yourself already. It’s beautiful, amazing and breathtaking.

“Hephaestus: A Greek Mythology Circus Tale” is playing at the Goodman Theatre in the Owen through June 20. More info here >

6 thoughts on “How I forgot to breathe at ‘Hephaestus’

  1. The “Flying Wallendas” were a famous circus act that worked without a net and tumbled in Detroit with some of them being killed doing the 7 man pyramid.

      1. Your MAMA. Some were also paralyzed. Look thejm up on the internet. Karl Wallenda fell and died working solo without a net in his 70″s.

  2. Hi, just read the comments from anonymous and look further into the Flying Wallendas, you can get more information on their web site They write their history and talk about the tragedies they’ve survived.

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