By: GUS SOLOMONS JR
Pier 17, South Street Seaport
East River, below Brooklyn Bridge
Through Nov. 2
Schedule at spiegelworld.com
Tickets are $35-$79
Spiegelworld has returned for a third season of intoxication – “Absinthe,” a sinfully tantalizing entertainment that ain't your father's Cirque du Soleil. Raunchy humor, striptease, cabaret-style songs, and physical virtuosity merge in the tight quarters of the Spiegeltent on Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. Impresario Ross Mollison has hit on a winning formula.
Awed viewers are riveted; they shriek with forbidden delight as emcee Gazillionaire spouts obscenities and insults innocent (not to mention guilty) audience members — “Look, a black man! They've gotta have one!” “Oooh, black and gay?!” he taunts, “Okay, let's play 'Jew, not Jew'; you can always tell!”
The audience moans when this lecherous caricature of a mogul, who sports a gold tooth and lasciviously stuffed crotch, orders his henchmen to banish a little boy from the audience, because he's too young for the X-rated material. Later, blindfolded, the Gazillionaire tries to shoot an apple off the head of his potty-mouthed but obedient assistant, Penny. She's sanguine, even while oozing blood from his botched marksmanship.
The two-hour mini-extravaganza is an irresistible adventure — a guilty pleasure. We guffaw at the obscenity-laced patter; we ooh and aah delightedly at the agility and skill of the international cast of performers. Ukrainian rhythmic gymnast Anna Stankus, billed as Anya, the world's most beautiful woman, does astonishing things with her hyper-flexible body and five hula-hoops. New York's favorite burlesque queen, Julie Atlas Muz, strips while maneuvering her entire body into a great big balloon. Gazillionaire's hunky bodyguards — Sergey Petrov and Sergey Dubovyk, aka Duo Sergio — whip off their spiffy suits and ties and perform hand-to-hand balancing in their skivvies, virtually in our laps.
Australian chanteuse Kaye Tuckerman in various guises provides musical interludes with songs like “Nasty, Naughty Boy,” which she sings, drunk, literally lying in the laps of the nonplussed audience. Moroccan Adil Rida hoists himself aloft on nylon straps and repeatedly hurtles towards the ground. Duo Ssens — Genevieve Landry from France and Maxime Clabaut from Quebec — work the stationary trapeze.
The Willers — Jean-Pierre and Wanda Poissonnet — twirl on roller skates. She hooks her feet behind his neck and flies round and round, grazing the knees of folks in the first row. Then, they spin yoked at their necks, with her whirling in midair as he spins on a perilously skimpy six-foot drum.
And the Anastasini Brothers, the eighth generation of a world-renowned circus dynasty that began in 1877, stop the show with their death-defying tumbling. The older brother “juggles” his ten-year-old sibling with his feet, tossing him into the air in breath-stopping, twisting flips and precarious foot-to-foot balances.
“Who wants to fuckin' follow that?” exclaims Gazillionaire, and the two-act show concludes with Tuckerman leading a sing-along “Let the Sunshine In” that serves as a company bow. The in-the-round intimacy of the Spiegeltent, enhanced by the easy availability of adult beverages, puts everyone in the mood for the show's madcap ingenuity. It's an only-in-New York experience to treat yourself to, because you're worth it.