Review of The Sloppy Joe Circus

Middle school, the setting for a circus? But middle school is a circus, even if you don’t feel that way, as portrayed in Runaway Circus & The Loose Caboose’s latest, The Sloppy Joe Circus. And the Reid Center provides the perfect atmosphere, with its school-style auditorium and seating…

Welcome to Asheville’s answer to every kid’s dream of running off to join the circus. Our little city can lay claim to a disproportionately large number of experienced circus-style performers, and perhaps a larger number of hard-working wannabes. The Runaway Circus provides a charming outlet for both, and though there might not be a cast of thousands, it sometimes seems that way. Why not come out to cheer them on?

The notion here is to use the typical middle-school day schedule to inform and structure the performance. If only all educational activities proved this amusing!

Here’s a video from Jake Frankel:

As the day begins, the whole school parades in, marching band-style. (The band stays and plays throughout, and they’re good.) Then the principal, “Mr. Batee” (pronounced “batty”), makes the first of several P.A.-style announcements, which primarily concern the big after-school match-up between the home team Bears and the Road Kill County Vultures. When it’s time to get to class, kids are hurried along with cracking whips.

Take a test first thing in the morning? Not as important as pouring water into a newspaper that stays dry, or making a bracelet disappear.

School spirit? We’re good with batons, but better still with hula hoops. And even a mascot Bear gets in on the action.

Between classes, one may dread the hall monitors. Then again, few hall monitors can perform as many tricks with their hats.

The custodian’s creepy, though. He appears between scenes, to help change settings, and always stares at the audience, smirking unnervingly.

Geography class is pretty special. Nothing like a little belly dancing to bring exotic locales to life.

Recess is always fun, but rarely as much fun as when three young unicyclists have at it.

Given the opportunity, make sure to tape a “Kick Me” sign onto Mr. Batee’s back. That will lead to lunacy with the assistant principal.

If you have one of those snap-on bracelets, don’t play with it in the hall or it might be confiscated by a teacher. Of course, if you manage to slip into the Teacher’s Lounge afterwards, you’ll be surprised to find all of the teachers have such bracelets, and not only do they play with them, but on their break they dance, perform acrobatics, build pyramids, tumble…

Gym and, in particular, weight training, may not be your favorite. But you might want to forget the excuse in your pocket if class turns into a spectacular display of diabolo juggling.

Anatomy class can be almost as scary as the custodian…especially if the skeleton comes to life, pokes you, and starts to eat.

Home economics, talent-show auditions, and even time spent hanging around your locker have never been like this. And neither have pull-ups, since the chinning bar is actually a trapeze and the dorkiest kid in the class is really a superior aerialist.

There’s that custodian again. He’s still creepy.

Love those cheerleaders. They’re the best!

Detention’s bad news. But who suffers more: the students or Mr. Batee?

Ah! Finally! “The Big Game,” with the Bears versus the Vultures, three to a side. But what’s this? Not football, baseball, basketball, soccer: it’s Indian club juggling! The teams move and interact in intricate, often spectacular patterns. Everyone wins!

And now it’s time for “The Big Dance.” Nice.

Graduation looks surprisingly like a curtain call. But then, when you graduate from The Sloppy Joe Circus…

Uh-oh. That creepy custodian’s still hanging around? Does he never leave? And what’s he doing with that skeleton?…

Here’s some photos from a fall show, taken by Jonathan Welch.

Last week’s story on the circus by Jake Frankel.

The Sloppy Joe Circus, by Runaway Circus & The Loose Cabooses. Two shows left: Saturday, May 27 at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. Sunday’s show features a 12:30 p.m. parade and pre-show, starting at the French Broad Food Coop and going to the Reid Center. $10 donation, no one turned away for lack of funds.
With Alyssa, Ben “the Bone” Schweizer, Brian P. Dailey, Britt Tyler, Charles Clarke, Charlotte Murphy, Christen Ray, Christian, Emily Thomas, Erica Engelsman, Forest Gregg, Holly Stancil, Ingrid Johnson, Joanne Stebbins, Josepha, Josh, Julie Manning, Kara Warren, Kasey Brandt, Keith Campbell, Ken Julian, Kevin Bradley, Liana Withwings, Meshell, Michael Forbes, Michael Moravetz, Molly Blueberry, Nina Ruffini, Patrick Kukucka, Rebecca McCloud, Sadye Osterloh, Shine, Sidney Rose Perkinson, Smartywench, Sparkle, Sparrow, Terra Michelle Gorman, Trevor Grasshopper, and Walter Beals.




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