Pedal Punk: Theater review by Raven Snook
Even New Yorkers who curse Citi Bike should cheer Cirque Mechanics' cycling-themed steampunk show, which has rolled into town for the holidays. Decked out in Victorian hats, goggles, sleeve garters and meticulously groomed facial fair, the astoundingly fit and funny ensemble kicks classic acts into high gear by performing them on a custom-made, movable, pedal-powered scaffold set dubbed the Gantry Bike. Spoke-less wheels become hula hoops, a penny-farthing transforms into an aerial hoop, metal bars invite climbing and contortion, and, of course, unicycle and bicycle tricks abound. At the center of it all is a comical bike mechanic (Jan Damm, an amusing clown who's also a whiz at the diabolo and the balancing board), whose eccentric clientele keeps him hopping around like a pedestrian caught in a bike lane.
This is the Las Vegas-based troupe's third outing at the New Victory Theater, a vast improvement over 2011's lackluster Wild West set Boom Town, probably due to founder Chris Lashua's background as a BMX Freestyle biker and Cirque du Soleil star. Pedal Punk fuses his talents (he directed and also co-designed the set) and provides an eye-popping playground for his 11 capable performers, whose quirky personalities shine through. Although there are no duds, standouts include real-life spouses Wendy and Nick Harden, who engage in an adorable courtship on unicycle; insanely flexible contortionist Windu Ben Sayles with his Snoopy aviator hat, Salvador Dali moustache and mischievous smile; and the climactic trampoline tumblers (Wes Hatfield, Gaz Hopkins, Sayles and Wendy Harden) for whom gravity seems optional.
Though the show is playing at the family-focused New Victory, it's certainly not scaled down for kids. With its top-notch acts and amazing aesthetics, Pedal Punk offers a spectacular ride for hipsters and pipsqueaks alike.—Raven Snook
New Victory Theater (Off Broadway). By Steven Ragatz. Directed by Chris Lashua. Performed by Cirque Mechanics. Running time: 1hr 45mins. One intermission. Ages 5 and up.