Last night, we saw Aloft’s production of The Dinner of Our Discontent by Shayna Swanson at the Chopin Theater. It’s a circus show about five terrible sisters who return to the family home to mourn their recently deceased parents. They fight with each other; they mourn together. It’s a daring show with some incredible circus on several new apparatuses (at least new to me). Spoilers ahead.
It started with Molly Plunk performing on the tight wire. She played the butler who cared for the parents and is completely distraught by their deaths. She seems to have a drinking problem and the act is a nod to that. She skillfully jumps across the wire, even jumping front to back on it while facing the audience, which is really difficult. She even balances with a bottle of wine and a glass while dancing across the wire. It was quite the impressive act.
One of the newer apparatuses were these giant beaded necklaces. Two performers, Natalie Abell and Mary Jane Schroeder, play identical twins who try to have their own distinct personalities but fail at it. They find each other in the same clothing, down to the knickers, reading the same book. So in an attempt to vary it up, they each find this beaded necklace to assert themselves…only to find the other sister has done the same. So they have this amazing acrobatics act where they weave in and out of the necklaces. They even lift one another other with the necklaces. It’s rather novel.
Later on, they perform on two ropes, each end attached to the ceiling, sort of like a u. They twist and roll themselves in the rope, while the other sister mirrored the actions. It was a coming to grips with each other. They are twins who really can’t do without the other. It was astonishingly beautiful.
Another duo aerial act was with Dana Dugan and Leah Loer. Dana Dugan plays the rebel of the family, doing whatever she wants, while Leah Loer is the prim and proper sister who is very successful. They perform on an apparatus that I’m going to call the chandelier, since it hangs over the table. They weave and balance all over this round metal cylinder as they brawl and come to turns with the other sister. There were some amazing drops. At one point, Dana Dugan stood on the legs of Leah Loer, and then dropped down, only to be caught in the armpits by Leah Loer’s feet. Really spectacular.
Then Zoe Sheppard, who plays the youngest sibling, performed on the chains. I’ve seen Zoe Sheppard perform on the silks in these amazing acts for several years. The chain really upped the ante. While she undertook these impressive drops, and holds, there was this incredible audible quality to the chains that really enhanced the experience. As she pulled the rope to set up for various postures, it would clang and clatter. It was a nice visual and audible symbol of her plight as the youngest daughter who is forgotten but seems to carry much of the emotional baggage.
The final act was an incredible duo acrobatics act by Will Howard and Destiny Vinley, who play the deceased mother and father. The act was one of the best acts about love; these two people clearly cared for each other deeply. At one point, Will Howard lay on the ground holding Destiny Vinley upright on his hands. He proceeds to roll over several times while still holding her upright. Simply marvelous. And that’s only a small part of the piece.
All in all, the circus was really impressive as described above. My only qualm was that I would have liked to see a bit more characterization of all the characters. You get a vague sense of them but I think it could be deepened. I’m not sure I completely got how these five sisters were terrible people. Maybe they’re mildly unpleasant but not horrifying.
So go on and go out to see The Dinner of Our Discontent at the Chopin Theater before it closes on August 25th. Check it out!
That’s all for now!