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Theater Review: Terrific Mini-Alt Circus 'Traces' in Town

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Traces—playing now at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood—is being billed as a circus. It is and it isn’t. There are no clowns or goth fire eaters, but no matter what you call it, Traces is brilliant and fun in its simplicity. The French Canadian Company Les 7 doigts de la main (7 Fingers) brings a mix of theatrics, projections, parkour, acrobatics and sports to the stage in their first show in LA.

Inevitably, the company will garner comparisons to the other French Canadian behemoth Cirque du Soleil, but think of Traces as a smaller, hipper alternative, minus the flamboyant costumes and cheesy music. And it’s not as goth as Cirque Berzerk at Club Nokia. These seven performers mostly wear kick-back khakis to perform, sticking to the urban theme of the whole production.

Six men and one woman perform high-energy acrobatics in between short snippets and stories from their lives. There really isn’t a narrative in this show, but the stunts are amazing, you really don’t mind. In between tumbling routines, stunts with a seesaw and pole climbing, are slower routines, presumably for the small cast to catch their breath.

In one particularly humorous transition, fellow cast members thrust an acoustic guitar into Florian Zumkehr’s hands right after he finishes a grueling performance of strength and balance with chairs. Trying to calm himself, he sings the audience a ballad that’s not too shabby. In fact, music is used well throughout the night. Several troupe members play the piano onstage, and the soundtrack is awesome, moving from rock—we think we heard some Radiohead—to rap to the blues. There's even a skateboarding/dance routine to the classic song, "Paper Moon."

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The theater's stage seems a little small for their gravity-defying feats, but they make it work for the best. The spartan set, which is supposed to be a bunker, is reminiscent of the musical, RENT. And here’s a hint when you buy tickets—stick to the center of the house as possible. There’s action in the wings and the sight lines from the aisle seats are a little obscured.

The Ricardo Montalban Theatre
1615 Vine St., Hollywood
Through Feb. 20
Tickets: $25 - $69