Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. That’s the best way to describe the heart-racing new show at Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse.
These seven young performers — part of French Canadian performance group 7 Fingers (Les 7 doigts de la main) — flip; jump; play piano; skateboard; climb up poles with no legs and then freefall to the ground, headfirst, within inches of breaking a neck; and then sing a sweet song on guitar. It’s an entirely unique blend of jaw-dropping team-based stunts, mixed-media performance art, and a heaping dose of heart.
Yet even though they’re doing these amazing things, these performers are completely accessible — not some ethereal forces twirling around in front of you. You feel as though you could go out and have a drink with them. Each one has a distinct and charming personality that is highlighted in transitional vignettes. (Though, I do wish these vignettes did a more effective job linking the routines together — at times the overall thing lacked cohesion.)
Not only are they interesting people and supremely talented, they’re not bad to look at, either. I was particularly smitten by Mason Ames — a 6’3”, 228 lb member of the team. While a (relative) giant on the stage, his size didn’t deter him from jumping through tiny wooden hoops with the same level of dexterity and grace as his more spritely cohorts. (Meanwhile, Katy at The Fourth Walsh liked Florian Zumkehr. It’s the long hair that did her in.)
You should really try to catch this show in the cozy Broadway Playhouse, which happens to be the launching pad for their North American tour. I’m actually surprised Broadway in Chicago would book them in this 550-seat venue — if there’s any show that requires space to move around, it’s this one. As spectacular as this intermissionless 90-minute show is, you feel as though they need a few more feet of space to really go full-throttle.
“Traces” plays through Dec. 19 at the Broadway Playhouse, next to Water Tower Place in the loop. More info here >