Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review: El Grande Circus de Coca-Cola, a Comedic Clown Fest from South of the Border

L-R: Lila Dupree, Aaron Miller, Marcelo Tubert, Olivia Cristina Delgado,
and Paul Baird on accordian. Photos by Ed Krieger

Whenever a production transfers from the humble beginnings of a 99-seat theatre house to a mid-size legit equity theatre in Los Angeles, there is cause for celebration. That’s the story of El Grande Circus de Coca-Cola, originally produced by Skylight Theatre Company & Flying Cucumber Productions, which ran 14 weeks at the Skylight, and now continues its journey at the Colony Theatre (amid rumors it will move on to London next).

Based on the original 1970’s El Grande de Coca-Cola, from Ron House & company, the latest production builds on the antics of the outrageous Papa Pepe Hernandez (Marcelo Tubert) and his Mexican circus family. The ever-optimistic brood of no-talent entertainers offers up circus acts and a family back story that reinvents the definition of lowbrow humor.

Their series of skits includes everything from a comedy aerial silk routine to cheesy magic tricks to death-defying acts of bravery like shooting a giant cannonball out of a giant cannon and throwing knives at an audience member volunteer. (Oh, yes, there is a great deal of audience interaction.) They can’t dance or sing (but do so, without apology to Swan Lake, and some familiar Mexican pop songs), can’t act (but present an over-the-top telenovela that is the reigning favorite of the show), yet their confidence overcomes.

Marcelo Tubert and Paul Baird

It takes a lot of talent to be able to look this untalented and the cast is a game bunch, each with such a random set of skills you’ll wonder where they found them. Paul Baird is the Don Juan of the family, possessing talents like playing the piano and accordion, unicycle, sleight of hand, and gymnastics while Aaron Miller, the goofy greaseball brother, plays drums and excels at physical comedy and strength. His take on Napoleon Bonaparte is one of the funniest segments of the 90-minute show.

Daughters, Olivia Cristina Delgado and Lila Dupree add youth & beauty and plenty of gags of their own, always with a wink and a smile. All have an incredible amount of control over their bodies and use them to pad the comedy every chance possible. Ringmaster Tubert orchestrates it all in Spanish with the delicious demeanor of a man who is certain he is only a blink away from celebrity.

The show trades in a specific kind of humor (not my particular brand of choice) so don’t expect sophistication of any kind. Rather, be prepared for a night of topical jokes that will make you groan and sight gags that are meant to leave you shaking your head. It’s a little like a technicolor version of the Ed Sullivan Show gone wrong, but set in a Big Top. No Topo Gigio or plate-spinning but plenty of kooky variety. And hey, there’s even a flamenco flea circus.

Paul Baird, Lila Dupree, Marcelo Tubert, Olivia
Cristina Delgado, and Aaron Miller
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