Funny thing, love. It"s like Human Endurance Extremities 101. It inspires sonnets, plays, great paintings and, in at least one case, a passion-crazed swami to press his face down into several inches of broken glass while the love of his life squishes his head with spike heels. This is just one of many odes to love and human endurance in the Blue Monkey Sideshow"s vaudevillian presentation, Valentine Snafu.
Blue Monkey Sideshow"s "Valentine Snafu" explores the theme of "love gone awry" at Theatre on the Square.
The theme of "love gone awry" is but a vehicle to bring us into one ridiculously dangerous trick after another. They include, but are definitely not limited to, Jeeribaldi the Rubber Man and his 1,020 degree arm spin, Mojo the Human Freak and his occasionally nauseating ability to lift things with body parts besides his hands and a family-oriented performance of "You Are My Sunshine" - well, just keep watching the shadows on that one. The entire matter is masterminded and narrated by Skanky and Krembo, with the sort of wide-eyed madness, charisma and vaguely undefinable sleaziness that has marked carnival barkers for generations. After more than five years on the job, the Monkeys don"t just make it look easy; they make it look commonplace. Like some of the older Jackie Chan movies, the real thrill isn"t just in the stunt, but in the secret, unvoiced hope that this will be the performance where somebody gets splattered. The Monkeys play that uneasy tension. You roll along for a while, watching the craziness, and after a bit it stops seeming to be real, making it all the more breathtaking when (for example) the guy lying on the bed of nails stands up to reveal neatly patterned puncture marks all up and down his back. This series of performances also features the debut of several of the Monkeys" children in supporting or musical roles. Young Midge is a highlight late in the game as she lovingly introduces the audience to her collection of pet crickets, only to gape in horror as Mojo gobbles them all in uncomfortably crunchy fashion. In between acts, 12-year-old Jordano the Lizard Boy wandered the audience with the alarming but irresistible offer, "Gimme a dollar and I"ll show you something really weird," and doing near-impossible backbends and twists. The latter portion of the show is the rotating "Aftercatch" act, which costs an extra $5 to watch. (Classic carnie maneuver: Hook the marks with the initial setup, then charge more for the finale. This is such a perfect homage to the sideshows of yesteryear it"s impossible to resent the extra cost.) "Twice the intensity in half the time," Skanky says. And if a strangely wiry kid asks you for a buck in exchange for weirdness, I suggest you take him up on it. Blue Monkey Sideshow"s performance of Valentine Snafu continues at Theatre on the Square through Feb. 22; call 637-8085. Tickets are $10, with five more bucks for "Aftercatch."