Knee Deep, an hour-long performance featuring the acrobatic talents of the three men and one woman who make up the Australian company Casus, is no traditional circus act. Now running at the New Victory Theater, this exhibition of tumbling, twirling, and miraculous egg-walking takes a quieter, gentler approach to the art form but still creates a physical spectacle that kids will find entertaining.
Unlike high-energy circus acts that pump up the volume with loud, heart-pounding music, Casus, whose members include Natano Fa'anana, Lachlan McAulay, Jesse Scott, and Emma Serjeant, often takes the mood down a notch, with quiet yet intense stunts and impressive dance moves. The wordless performance begins with Serjeant walking on eggs — literally. One step after another she carefully sets each foot on a dozen eggs without breaking a single shell. Other acts include astonishing feats of strength and balance, including one performer balancing precariously on another performer's head while meditative music plays.
That's not to say that there are no up-tempo segments to the show to get your blood racing. In addition to a couple of acts that incorporate jazzy, funky tunes such as Gil Scott-Heron's "New York Is Killing Me," you'll see Fa'anana perform a body-slapping number that gets the audience laughing. Hearts will also beat faster as three members of Casus climb up one another as though scaling a building and then stand upright in a human tower above the stage.
When the music softens, so too does Rob Scott's lighting, which dims enough to produce evocative shadows on the performers. There's something otherworldly about watching one of them climb up a closed curtain that extends into the flies, wrapping himself in it as he goes, and then startling the audience out of its trance as he loosens his grip and goes spinning toward the stage. Graceful dance also plays a part in these acts, reminding us that the human body can impress and inspire on many levels.
With its hypnotic atmosphere and eclectic music, which runs the gamut from Kronos Quartet to Eddie Vedder, Knee Deep may not be exactly what parents and kids are expecting when they enter, but there's no denying that the show is a spectacle. Some initial impatient grumbles from one 10-year-old sitting near me eventually gave way to deafening shrieks of delight and wild applause, especially when the four acrobats took their final bow.