Tent Of Désir(e)

By: GUS SOLOMONS JR

DÉSIR

Spiegelworld NYC 2008

South Street Seaport, Pier 17

Fulton St. at South St.

Below the Brooklyn Bridge

Mon. at 7:30 p.m.;

Wed.-Thu. at 8 p.m.;

Fri. at midnight; Sat. at 6 & 8 p.m.

Sun. at 6 p.m. through Nov. 2

Tickets are $35-$79; with dinner, $100

spiegelworld.com or 212-279-4200

The new production this year at Spiegelworld — New York City's fast-growing summertime institution — is “Désir,” which opened August 14. Like its predecessor, “Absinthe,” this new French-flavored confection will also satisfy your jones for hot-weather circus fun, but unlike the variety show format of “Absinthe,” “Désir” takes inspiration from Arthur Schnitzler's 1897 play “La Ronde” — a series of encounters in which a case of VD is passed from couple to couple in successive scenes. In this adaptation, the “gift” isn't the clap, but the round robin idea provides continuity.

The in-the-round setup of the century-old, mirrored Spiegeltent is perfect for the up-close-and-personal action that's set in an imaginary 19th century boudoir, conceived by set designer Josh Zangen in collaboration with Boucheron. The 150-year-old, French jewelry house is lending its name and prestige to the production for the first time. And if you're so inclined, you can purchase a Boucheron bauble for your honey at Boutique Désir after the show.

In “Absinthe,” awesome stunts stirred into a tangy batter of raunchiness kept the crowd shuttling between awed ovations and belly laughs. “Désir” relies more for its impact on elegant execution and the physical beauty of its talented cast of scantily clad acrobats. One of the performers from a previous scene interacts with someone new in succeeding scenes. And there's a nice gay twist at the end.

Some interactions are technically juxtapositions, as when aerial hoop artist Annie-Kim Dehry soars above Cirque du Soleil alumnus Olaf Triebel, who simply reclines on a round pouf below her before launching into his own technically flawless hand balancing routine.

Showgirls Marieve Hemond and Genevieve Morin spice up Triebel's solo act by stripping off his shirt and pants while he's perched upside down on wooden spikes that protrude from the bed. Triebel's preternaturally attenuated physique is like a Giacometti sculpture — the result, says the press release, of his having had ribs surgically removed in Bombay.

Blonde Dehry reappears later with her raven-haired partner Hemond in an animated girl-on-girl aerial number. They twist and turn and weave their supple limbs into unlikely arches and stretchy splits on a trapeze with two crossbars that form a square.

David Quinn's glittery costumes for the show range from vaguely East Indian motifs — tight white pants embroidered with silver spangles for a man called The Maharaj of Pitali and shiny helmets and uniforms for a quartet of attendants dubbed Maharaja's Soldiers — to French grunge for an Apache dance to a Loie Fuller-esque Butterfly of voluminous fabric “wings.”

Choreographer John “Cha Cha” O'Connell's gives some gratuitous “dance-y” steps to three gorgeous hunks and a young boy between their feats of strength. The foursome, Evgeny Belyaev, Nikolay Shaposhnikov, Anton Smirnov, and Nikolay Titov, who comprise the Russian acrobatic team Evolution, does impressive hand-to-hand balancing, and they toss the boy 15 feet up and catch him, upright, in their bare hands. (The stage is a scant eight-feet in diameter.)

Presumably, O'Connell's more meaningful choreographic contributions include staging the seamless transitions throughout.

As usual, the audience gets into the act when exotic Marawa Ibrahim, impersonating Josephine Baker in a banana skirt, hands off her hula-hoops to folks in the first row to tend, while she twirls increasingly larger numbers of them around her shapely body to the tune “Don't Touch My Tomatoes.” That's as racy as this PG-rated entertainment gets.

Still, there's beefcake enough to savor. Antoine Auger looks fetching in his tightie-whiteys, as he flexes, Pilates-style, with the Russians, also in their skivvies. Then he dons a tunic and partners Raphaelle Boitel (in drag as his muscle-bound sibling) in the comic Bravo Brother Act, defying gravity — with the aid of supporting wires

Next, strongman Auger slings petite Morin around in a hand-to-hand acrobatic update on traditionally misogynist Apache dancing; mercifully, he never actually slams her to the floor. And the silk strap aerial routine, ubiquitous in circus shows, features Marco Noury — a paragon of exquisite physical proportions with a movie star face — twisting his honed, Adonis-like body into provocative, joint-wrenching positions, while he's suspended above us by his extremities.

Alluring Maria Victoria Di Pace is the chanteuse of the affair; Wayne Harrison directs; Josh Abrahams arranges the recorded musical score; and Martin Kinnane provides lighting. Plus, making a brief special guest appearance is Vladamira, a native Persian with feline grace, who makes a death-defying tightrope walk across the theater above the heads of the gaping audience — without a net, ladies and gentlemen!

Cats always land on their feet anyway.

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