5 out of 5 stars
Photograph: Michael Meseke Traces at the Union Square Theatre

The name of the Montreal-based neocircus company Les 7 Doigts de la Main translates to English as "7 Fingers," and its tremendously entertaining Traces---a brash athletic vaudeville with a street-smart twist---treats its seven performers accordingly. Each is completely individuated, but connected at base to the rest; and together they pack a freakish punch, though it often feels more like a chuck to the chin. Despite moments of urgency, and a suggestion of crisis outside its walls, Traces is suffused with an infectious spirit of camaraderie; the show's humanity and charm make its exuberant, parkour-inflected feats of acrobatics especially thrilling to watch.

In sharp contrast with the alien-costume-ball aesthetic of that other Quebecois circus in town, the versatile and flexible Traces performers wear loose modern clothes and are identified often by name, as they deserve to be. (They are Mason Ames, Valrie Benot-Charbonneau, Mathieu Cloutier, Bradley Henderson, Philippe Normand-Jenny, Xia Zhengqi and Florian Zumkehr.) All of them have subspecialties in terms of circus skills and apparatus---Henderson nails a Cyr-wheel routine, Zumkehr does a hand-balance act on stacked chairs---but they also leap, twist, flip, spring and dance in group efforts; the set functions variously as stage, gymnasium, living room, bunker, skateboard park, basketball court, artist's studio and piano bar. Codirected by Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider, Traces celebrates youthful vigor, achievement, fun and possibility in a world that only seems inhospitable to them. Eager and able to please---in the finale, the cast literally jumps through hoops---the show drops your jaw into a big goofy smile.

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