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Geeks and Freaks in NYC: Review of Carnival Knowledge
By Alden Gewirtz


Who says sideshows are dead? "Freak chic" is alive and well in Carnival Knowledge, which opened this summer at the SoHo Playhouse.

Todd Robbins presents this off-Broadway sideshow experience in the comfort of a Manhattan theater for those who can't make it out to Coney Island or to see the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow when it's in town.

Robbins, along with the ever-flexible Twistina, stage veteran Little Jimmy, and a menagerie of other freaks and geeks, perform many of the classic ten-in-one acts (such as sword swallowing and fire eating) and showcase the odd and unusual (the headless woman, "Zanitra the Gorilla Girl") for which sideshows are known — all with the requisite snappy one-liners. But more than just putting on a review of "gawk and shudder acts," Robbins relates the history behind the American sideshow, traces its rise and fall, and dispels its myriad myths. As he puts it, Carnival Knowledge "lifts the canvas tent flap" on the sideshow and explains the hows and whys, demonstrating what makes the impossible become possible.

By having the audience participate in some of the acts, and doling out carny "slanguage," Robbins also makes all the viewers co-conspirators in the sideshow experience. The playwright's lifelong love of the sideshow is apparent (he's both the Chairman of the Board of Coney Island USA, and the Dean of the Coney Island Sideshow School), and this passion, as well as his interaction with the audience, makes the evening that much more entertaining. Robbins' postmodern approach is fitting on the stage, and follows the trend of acts like Blue Man Group, Penn & Teller, and Ricky Jay. In the age of so-called reality entertainment, in which "Fear Factor" and "Jackass" push the boundaries of extreme behavior, Robbins' Carnival Knowledge is the original "shock entertainment," and has loads more heart.

Carnival Knowledge is currently playing at the SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street (near 6th Avenue) in New York City. Performances are Thur. at 8pm, Fri. at 9pm, Sat. at 8pm & 10:30pm, and Sun. at 3pm. Tickets (which include admission to a Mini Midway and complimentary game tickets, where everyone's a winner) are $35-$45 (VIP tickets are $80 and include drinks), and can be purchased through Ticketcharge at 212-239-6200 or the SoHo Playhouse box-office. See www.carnivalknowledge.com for more information.

Behind in your reading?
Check out past ATOMIC features.

Cyber*Kool
Dear Dottie
1999 Articles List
2000 Articles List
2001 Articles List
2002 Articles List
2003 Articles List
2004 Articles List
Remembering Bing Crosby
Carnival Knowledge
Vintage Skivvies Lets It All Hang Out
Destroy Puny Humans!
Broadway By the Year: 1939
Michael Lesy's Altered States
RCR Turns Up The Heat
Happenings
Super Bowl of Go-Go


 


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