A sad clown sits on the sidewalk. Surrounded by his belongings – a tiny piano, a golden trumpet, a coat stand, various hats, the obligatory clown suitcase and a red red rose – he selects records, one after the other, and sets them to play on his gramophone.
Then the curtain draws back and a cascade of his clown friends spill onto the stage in a riot of colour, music, dance, acrobatics. Dressed in black and white and oozing Parisian style, each face is carefully, poignantly painted. They start to enact the oldest story in time: girl (Sam Shepherd) meets boy (Virgil Gadson). Girl likes boy. And so their halting courtship begins. The sad clown (Steve Pacek) looks on, his face full of confusion. So far, so clown show.
A guy in street clothes wanders in (Davy Raphaely). He’s a psychologist, he says. He’s been watching the sad clown from his office window and wondering why he never speaks. So begins a conversation between two people trying to find a common ground. In (Untitled Project) #213, we find out almost nothing about these clowns. But we’re gifted a series of witty, glorious routines (Jenn Rose), featuring umbrellas, bouncy balls, beer bottles and some impeccably executed acrobatics accompanied by a soundtrack that evokes the smokiest cellar bars of Paris. Dan Kazemi has created a wonderfully evocative score for the cello (Matt Mastronardi), accordion, flute and vocals (Liz Filios) and of course, the tiny piano.
The driving force for the piece is the source of the sad clown’s sadness. Steve Pacek’s heart-rending performance is part of this sadness along with the consistent inability to communicate – the psychologist unsuccessfully tries to speak French. And then we see the final, cruel twist in this exquisitely moving love letter of a show.
The sucker punch is delivered by the press release. This show was created by Pacek to commemorate his partner. “I was stuck for a while,” said Pacek, “because how can you find your voice when life has left you at a complete loss for words?” He may not have found a show title, possibly deliberately, but the 213 Collective have created an artfully beautiful tribute to the joyous wonder of love and the crushing burden of heartache.