‘Machine de Cirque’ performs with humor, heart
BOSTON – I first encountered Cirque du Soleil more than 30 years ago in one of the troupe’s first forays into Boston.
The Cirque shows married acrobatics, juggling, and other circus arts with production values — lighting, sound, costumes, music – that until then were pretty much reserved for the live stage.
The worldwide success of the troupe spawned various competitors, all hailing from the French Canadian province of Quebec, which seems to turn out circus performers much like it it churns out its beloved fast food, poutine.
One of Cirque du Soleil’s successors is Machine de Cirque, a troupe founded three years ago and now performing on the Paramount Theatre Mainstage through Oct. 2 under the auspices of ArtsEmerson.
Vincent Dube, who is the troupe’s director, co-writer and the originator of the idea behind the show, has a college degree in engineering, but each summer when he was supposed to be working in that field, he ended up working with a circus as a performer.
After graduation, he worked with Cirque du Soleil and toured with performance festivals until deciding go out on his own. He contacted brother Raphael, who, with Yohann Trepanier, was already part of the popular juggling/comedy duo Les Beaux Freres, and that duo was were joined by Ugo Dario and Maxim Laurin.
The quartet performs with an incessant backbeat provided by musician Frederic Lebrasseur, who also has roots in the improv scene, and uses a variety of instruments and in many instance his own original music to p;provide a soundtrack to the antics onstage. There is more than a little nod to “Stomp!”, which has made several stops through Boston through the years.
Vincent Dube’s engineering degree found itself useful in the construction of the set , which functions with a series of Rube Goldberg-type devices, scaffolding and ropes, which aid abet the various acrobatics.
Vincent Dube has also crafted a storyline, with the performers playing characters who are focusing on survival in a post-apocalyptic world. As such, they both see other survivors and move through a series of acts involving bicycles, unicycles, a trapeze, teeterboard, ropes and pulleys, all part of the ingenious set.
Perhaps the number that best combines Machine’s acrobatics and comedic skills was an extended skit in which the performers try to doff bathing suits and still not display full frontal nudity, thanks to a rousing variety of hilarious maneuvers and split-second timing.
Yes, they perform with great skill and precision, but they also perform with great joy, humor and heart and that carries off the stage of the Paramount Theatre and finds its way into the appreciative audience.
The ArtsEmerson production of Machine De Cirque. Directed by Vincent Dubé. Music by Frédéric Lebrasseur. Production by Machine de Cirque. Presented by ArtsEmerson. At Paramount Mainstage, Boston, through Oct. 2. Tickets: $20-$80, www.artsemerson.org