Aurelia’s Oratorio: Light, Sad, Circus

Last night I saw Aurelia’s Oratorio at Berkeley Repertory Theater. This is one of those rare things that is both light and heartbreaking. Victoria ThierrĂ©e Chaplin, the creator of the show and the mother of its star, is Charlie Chaplin’s daughter. Uncle Dan actually hooted “Pure Chaplin!!” in the middle of one piece where two dancers + pair of pants = three dancers. It’s a dance vignette collection with puppets, spare props and some aerial gymnastics (drapes with hidden ladders, gymnastic rings hidden inside hanging silk shirts). There are low-key special effects, mostly having to do with black and white cloth knocking out or obscuring something tipped this way or that under the light. The all-vintage aesthetic is judiciously defanged by using a little electronic music here and there; in an old alarm clock bell chorus there is one pesty modern alarm clock. Victoria T. Chaplin and her husband started the cirque nouveau movement which people credit as the inspiration for Cirque du Soleil. This is not as fancy as Cirque de Soleil. It has a sneakier and more modest heart. Marcus just about spoiled it by asking in the parking garage, “How come every piece of French whimsy MUST include tango music? They can’t get enough of it.” Maybe somebody can explain that.

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