Saturday, June 1, 2019

REVIEW: Next Door and Helga Through Sunday at Physical Theater Festival Chicago at Stage 773 Through June 9, 2019

Full Body Physical Theatre Takes Audience on a Journey that Spans Decades and Continents

Out of Balanz From Copenhagen, Denmark

by bonnie kenaz-mara

Next Door and Helga are a great pairing at Physical Theater Festival Chicago at Stage 773. Actors in both shows embody characters from youth, young adulthood, middle age, and the final, elderly years, in a stunning transformation. These actors are masters of comedic timing, amazing physical feats, and facial expressions that are beyond funny.

Henni Kervinen in Helga – the life of a diva extraordinare (Finland)

Next Door by Out of Balanz From Copenhagen, Denmark

Next Door celebrates interconnectedness and the friendships of neighbors from 10 year old boys to adults. Expect exciting sword fights, a harrowing adventure at sea, skateboarding, biking, memorabilia, and an epic death scene. With a dynamic duo from Finland and Denmark, Next Door is a hilarious exploration of the universal nature of human connections and missed connections, as well as a fun glimpse into Nordic life. This is physical, comedic storytelling at its best. 

Delightful diva in decline, Helga is performed to perfection by Finnish circus artist Henni Kervinen. I want to hang out with this booze swilling, espresso lovin' curmudgeon, and hear no nonsense wisdom and tales of her glory days. This act includes a full on flashback trapeze act and burlesque tease from a Helga at the height of her youth as well as the same act, repeated in present day. Expect aerial arts, early parenthood, the cat lady who raised a beast, prepping for company and an interesting array of costume choices.

We adored these celebrations of life experience, characters, and everyday moments from the mundane to the monumental. Highly recommended. 

Here at ChiIL Mama, we're huge, lifelong fans of circus arts and physical comedy in the art of storytelling on stage. We're thrilled to be catching 10 days of world class physical theatre right here in Chicago at Physical Fest at Stage 773 and Chopin Theatre. Check out the full schedule and show details here:

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she has published frequently since 2008: (adult) & (family friendly). 

Next Door by Multi-award winning 
Danish company Out of Balanz

By Out of Balanz
From Copenhagen, Denmark
Friday, May 31 at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 1 at 9 p.m., Sunday,
June 2 at 2 p.m.
60 minutes
For ages 12 and up

*Parents: Sunday, June 2, 2 p.m. is Sitter Sunday. Come for the show, teaching staff from Willow Tree Child Care will watch your kids, ages potty trained and up. See website for details.

Multi-award winning Danish company Out of Balanz returns to Chicago with their critically acclaimed Next Door. The stand-out smash hit of Chicago’s first Physical Theater Festival in 2014 is back by popular demand to re-celebrate physical comedy, active imaginations and the importance of relationships.

When Ivan Hansen’s neighbor passes away suddenly, Ivan realizes he doesn’t know anything about him. In Next Door, intimate storytelling and high-octane physical theater explore what it is that really connects us.

Next Door captured First Prize and Audience Prize at the Birmingham European Theatre Festival 2013 and Best Male Performers at Kosovo’s Skena Up International Festival. The Copenhagen Post called it “imaginative and groundbreaking…an unforgettable journey into the human psyche.” The Scotsman found it “irresistible.”

Founded in 2006, Out of Balanz is an award-winning international theater ensemble based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Recognized for their highly collaborative creative process and for producing original work rich in spectacle and adventurous in form, Out of Balanz has created over a dozen original works and toured to 16 different countries in Europe, North America and Asia (including such venues as The John Houseman Theatre off-Broadway, The Barbican in London and at the first-ever Physical Theater Festival Chicago.) The company was named one of the 13 most innovative physical theater companies in the world, alongside such prestigious companies as The SITI Company and DV8, by For more, visit

Henni Kervinen in 
Helga – the life of a diva extraordinare (Finland)

Helga – life of a diva extraordinaire
By Henni Kervinen, directed by Jenni Kallo
From Finland
Friday, May 31 at 9 p.m.; Saturday, June 1 at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, June 2 at 5 p.m.
60 minutes
For ages 10 and up

A new cabaret diva extraordinaire is here! Poignant, melancholy mime, clowning circus skills and physical comedy make up the wordless story of Helga. Tragedy and comedy meet as Helga invites us into her world, from the mundane details of her day to the fabulous memories of her life.

Helga is skillfully performed by Finnish circus artist Henni Kervinen and directed by Jenni Kallo, Artistic Director of the renowned Kallo Collective (Only Bones, Edinburgh Fringe 2016). called Helga 'absurd comedy and sparkling wit…', with an Edinburgh Fringe Fest fan hitting the nail on the head with "only the Finns can make humor out of melancholy as fabulously as this.” For more, visit

Note: Helga is silent, no interpreter needed, making it appropriate for audiences that are deaf or hard of hearing.

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar


Check out the full Physical Festival schedule and show details here:

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