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Night Howl
By Karen Reardanz

[whitespace] New Pickle Circus
Sold a Dill of Goods: New Pickle Circus members cycle, tight-rope walk and flip around the stage in the circus' latest theatrical endeavor, 'The Big Bang ... and Other Rude Noises.'

Photo by David Allen

The Dawn of Realization:
Tandy Beal and the New Pickle Circus turn the big-top world on its head with acrobatic storylines and family fun

NEVER ONE IN LOVE with the circus, I was somewhat skeptical, somewhat fearful of venturing out to Watsonville's Henry J. Mello Center to experience the New Pickle Circus phenomenon this past Saturday. Clowns, the claustrophobic big top and animal acts seemed like vestiges from childhood nightmares, even if the New Pickles are part of the "new circus" renaissance, as it's billed. But artistic director Tandy Beal and gang garner so many raves every time they make their way through town, I figured I'd embrace my fears and give it a go.

Luckily, The Big Bang! ... and Other Rude Noises (this season's show) was a more like Cirque du Soleil than Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. While less esoteric than its French-Canadian big-top brother, it was equally interesting, weaving standard big-top fare--acrobats, jugglers, foot balancers--and stunning visuals with all the hipness the modern-day family craves. Yes, there were the mouth-dropping feats, a pulsing soundtrack and stunning visuals, and, much to a circus-phobe's relief, no lion tamers, no elephants, no teacup poodles.

The storyline is centered around a Mom and Dad "accidentally" sent back to the dawn of time (a.k.a. Big Bang), who must then follow the evolution back to the present day. With this sweeping premise, the story didn't quite hit the mark. Theatrical shows like this don't necessarily need storylines. Sometimes surrealism and imagination, as well as visuals, work better than plots.

The physical feats, as is the case in most shows like this, were outstanding, instilling a sense of awe in children and full-grown folk alike. Chinese acrobat Wang Hong was a particular standout. The Pickle family may be a small crop of talent, but it's chock-full of people who can twirl, flip and balance with the best of 'em.

The Big Bang! ... and Other Rude Noises was completely sold out, a testament to word of mouth and press from the past, and I felt somewhat guilty as I made my way through the sea of downtrodden kiddies in the rain who were just a hair too late to get tickets. It's apparent the New Pickle Circus satisfies a craving in the community for more kinds of family fun than the usual movie-and-bowling fare.

Sometimes tedious (in my case particularly due to the squirming, restless munchkin with whom I was sharing my armrest), the New Pickle Circus valiantly tries to incorporate highbrow art into middle America family-style entertainment. For this, the show works, introducing young children (and maybe their parents, too) to the world of movement, theater and dance. But for those used to this world, it may be more of a spectacle than an artistic experience.


Saturday night sees everyone and their mother out on the town: Bruce Lee and Sara Wilbourne join other dancers at The Moving Ground. ... Winifred R. Harris leads the Between Lines dance company through a multiethnic dance at UCSC. ... Bethany Curve and a.d.e perform at Louden Nelson Center.

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From the January 15-21, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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