September 18, 2017 - Dorie Byrne
LEAPS OF FAITH AND OTHER MISTAKES is a beautiful spectacle, full of humor, sadness, joy and handstands. The Almanac ensemble members become a cult of seafarers, pushing the limits of detachment from the land and, seemingly, gravity. They are a well-oiled machine, spinning on each other’s feet, flipping over each other’s bodies, and flinging one another into the air. The acrobatic feats would be show enough, but they are a medium through which a really good play happens (directed by Annie Wilson). The narrative passes back and forth through the seafarers’ logs and simple lines become mantras: “We are air.” “We are land.” “Fuck coffee.” The set (Clancy Philbrick and Robin Stamey) is equally spare and spacious, with giant white sails lining the high, narrow space, and an immersive art installation above.
The world around the ship is made complete by the gorgeous music of Mel Hsu. (Full disclosure: Mel is a friend and shining star of a human being.) She stands behind the action like a sea goddess, weaving together soundscapes of chimes, cello, drums, and ethereal vocals. As the shipmates get their sea legs (hilariously failing along the way) the sounds are grooving and danceable. During the tea ceremony, the music stacks together the onstage clink of cups as the crew communes with its only prop. When Hsu conjures the big storm, she forgoes the obvious floor toms and her voice becomes the crying winds. The storm blows us back to the beginning: Day Zero. Other scenes float in from out of time, tethering us to their dreams and decisions. Sail on.
September 14, 2017 - Christopher Munden
he 2015 version of LEAPS OF FAITH AND OTHER MISTAKES was Almanac Dance Circus Theatre’s strongest production to date. Their reworking for the 2017 Philadelphia Fringe Festival is even better.
The concept remains the same: four seafarers embark on a voyage of escapism and mutual self-discovery, expressed through the breathtakingly impressive acrobatics for which Almanac is known. This production sees the original creative cast — company members Nicole Burgio, Nick Gillette, Ben Grinberg, and Adam Kerbel — collaborate with a new cowriting director (the supremely intelligent Annie Wilson) and musician (Mel Hsu). In swapping a playwright (Josh McIlvain provided witty coherence to the original iteration) for a choreographer as their principal collaborator, this LEAPS OF FAITH is predictably less text-heavy. Instead it focuses on communication through movement, a discipline in which Almanac excels.
Hsu’s hypnotic live-recorded loops of cello and voice build tension as the team explore such issues as time passing, endurance, the things we miss, and group dynamics. They make creative use of gallery space of the Painted Bride Arts Center, staircase and all, with creative design by Clancy Philbrick (who has an exhibit upstairs) and Robin Stamey. The thoughtful framework amplifies without overwhelming the impressive balancing acts, leaps, and tumbles. It’s beautiful. It’s cool. It’s “wow”.