Saturday, July 29, 2017

REVIEW: Highly Recommended Acro Acumen Via Aura Curiatlas Physical Theatre

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:
Aura Curiatlas Physical Theatre
at Edge Theatre
Acrobatic Dance Theatre inspired by the work of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking

Highly recommended. There are only 2 Chicago performances remaining. Don't miss this!
Photography: Geoffrey Wade

REVIEW: Balance, brains and brilliance abound as Aura Curiatlas Physical Theatre lives up to their name. 

Aura: Lightness and breath
Curious: Our characters and ourselves
Atlas: Strength and power

The teens and I caught their opening night last night at The Edge Theatre, and we were beyond impressed. This unique troupe is fronted by former teacher/student duo, the brilliant Joan Gavaler and home town favorite, Dan Plehal, and comprised of an impressive blend of professionals with home bases scattered all over the US, as well as a supporting cast of locals. We were wowed by their creative coupling of dance and partner acro in the service of storytelling.

The first act is a playful and thoroughly enjoyable showcase of shorts from the company's show Dream Logic, that they have been touring around the country. This includes an endlessly entertaining bus ride from hell, rejected crayons personified, and a high energy game of keep away with a misdelivered package. 

In a crazy odd coincidence, my real life evening yesterday began with nearly the same scenario, albeit with less energetic acro! A package was left between my front doors that was meant for the same numerical address as mine, but several streets over. My acro lovin' circus teens were dying to open it out of curiosity, before returning it to the rightful address, and made a few playful attempts, but I wrestled the package from them. So, of course the opening package scene was especially hilarious to us, since we'd literally just lived it before leaving for the theatre. 

The second act, an incredible tribute to Stephen Hawking, A Life With No Limits, was a true gem. We were stunned by the raw emotion and the contrast between the fluid leaps of a genius mind versus the obstacles and frustrations of mobility with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). At the age of 75, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is wheelchair-bound and needs assistance from 4 aids round the clock and up to 40 at times. He was diagnosed at age 21.

This is a wrenchingly beautiful piece and I was left in awe of the superhuman physical strength and willpower required to live with a severe disability. The logistics of choreographing a chorus of caregivers, family and friends, and an active career, including speaking engagements and guest appearances, is mind boggling too. 

This is a brand new piece they're still collecting input on, though it's close to fruition in a final form. I would love to see them couple it with projected astrophysics  imagery and visuals on Hawkings' theories, interwoven with selective words, to compliment and clarify the piece. Even sans images and evolving, A Life With No Limits is a moving must see. 

Friday, July 28, 8:00 pm Saturday, July 29, 8:00 pm Sunday, July 30, 3:00 pm  

Tickets: $15 student, $20 general, $10 for groups of 10+ On-line:

Aura Curiatlas Physical Theatre will present A Life With No Limits at Edge Theatre on July 28, 29, and 30.  This performance is inspired by the work of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and is created in the company’s signature style blending dance, theatre, and acrobatics.  The evening will begin with a selection of stories and characters from the company’s DREAM LOGIC show. Find enchantment in ordinary situations presented in unexpected ways!  After the show, the performers look forward to talking with members of the audience. “It's especially gratifying to see companies like Aura Curiatlas Physical Theatre return to Washington with a fascinating new work, A Life With No Limits, dedicated to the ideas of the physicist Stephen Hawking. Aura Curiatlas has developed a unique, intensely physical brand of performance without words, incorporating circus and dance techniques into narratives that are eye-popping in their execution and touching in their meaning.”  (Andy White,, March 1, 2017)

Aura Curiatlas performs July 28 and 29 at 8:00 pm and July 30 at 3:00 pm at Edge Theatre, 5451 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640; Tickets: $20 general, $15 student.

What’s In A Name? Aura: Lightness and breath, Curious: Our characters and ourselves, Atlas: Strength and power “Combine strength and humor, a dash of curiosity, a pinch of whimsy, and a generous dose of inventiveness, mix thoroughly and you have Aura Curiatlas Physical Theatre's compelling brand of storytelling and movement.” (Pamela Roberts,, March 2016)  

Meet the Artists 
Joan Gavaler (Co-Artistic Director) has choreographed over 50 original works and been a driving force behind four professional companies. She relishes collaborative discovery and has worked with poets, visual artists, composers, musicians, actors, directors, acrobats, and physicists on dance and theatre projects.  She has been invited by over 40 organizations to present and teach in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, including presentations on the Alexander Technique in Lugano, Switzerland, a dance residency at Beijing Normal University, performances for American Dance Guild showcases in New York City, and movement consulting for the Virginia Shakespeare Festival.  Joan is a Professor of Dance, College of William & Mary.

Dan Plehal (Co-Artistic Director) studied and performed physical theatre at the College of William & Mary and with Pig Iron Theatre Company (Philadelphia), FLIC Squola di Circo (Torino), Familie Floz (Berlin), and Accademia dell'Arte (Arezzo).  He has directed and designed movement for Lifeline Theatre and Boho Theatre (Chicago), Red Dot Theatre Company (Arezzo), The Groundswell Players (Philadelphia), and Sinfonicron Light Opera Company (Williamsburg).  He has taken on various roles at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, the Arden Theatre, Theatre Horizon, and Team Sunshine (Philadelphia).  Dan directs, performs, and teaches in Chicago.

Collaborators: Mickey Lonsdale, an acrobat and dancer based in Stamford, CT; Richie Schiraldi, an acrobat and clown based in Chicago, Fiona Wren Bradley, a handbalancer and acrobat based in Chicago.

Website: Facebook:

2016-17 grants: Junior Woman’s Club of Williamsburg National Endowment for the Arts Virginia Commission for the Arts Williamsburg Area Arts Commission York County Arts Commission

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