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2017 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes’ by Almanac at the Painted Bride Art Center

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Did you ever want to sail away from it all and begin anew with a circle of like-minded friends? That’s what the figures in Almanac’s Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes do, in a decision that tests their individual commitment to the shared utopian goal and their trust in each other’s support – both emotionally and physically, in character and out – as the intrepid troupe performs feats of derring-do in a self-described synthesis of “dance circus theatre.”

Nicole Burgio, Ben Grinberg, Adam Kerbel, and Nick Gillette. Photo by Daniel Kontz.

Created and performed by the dauntlessly agile and muscular Nicole Burgio, Nick Gillette, Ben Grinberg, and Adam Kerbel, and directed at an enthralling pace by Annie Wilson, the original heartfelt, heart-stopping, and humorous seafaring adventure combines the company’s signature acrobatics, storytelling, and wit, in a non-linear narrative recounted as log entries in a book of days. The interspersed dialogue (written by Wilson and the ensemble) and amazing circus-arts sequences reveal the characters’ background, personalities, challenges, and moods, as their camaraderie, passion, and frivolity shift to boredom, confusion, and discord, when they are forced to face the realities of cramped quarters, depleted supplies of food and water, and violent storms that toss the boat. Gillette’s Kent is responsible and determined, Burgio’s Wentoba is especially feisty, Grinberg’s Javier and Kerbel’s Clavis tend to go with the flow, and all are eminently likeable in their roles and masterful in their craft.

The site-specific performance, staged in the back gallery of the Painted Bride Art Center, is supplemented by a maritime-themed multimedia installation by visual artist Clancy Philbrick, who co-designed the evocative bi-level set and dramatic lighting with Robin Stamey. A haunting multi-layered soundscape of original music, composed and performed live by the extraordinary Mel Hsu, enhances the affecting tone of the show and reverberates throughout the intimate space.

Originally performed at the Fleisher Art Memorial in June 2015, the current re-envisioning of Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes in the Fringe makes for a breathtaking display of the interdisciplinary talents of Almanac and its impressive collaborators. Make no mistake about that!

Photo by Daniel Kontz.

Photo by Daniel Kontz.

Running Time: 65 minutes, without intermission.

Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes plays through Saturday, September 23, 2017, at Almanac, performing at the Painted Bride Art Center – 230 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the Fringe box office at (215) 413-9006, or purchase them online.

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