You might be initially confused why the vaudeville show-cum-circus that headlines the recently opened Spiegeltent at the South Street Seaport is called Absinthe. But all it takes is one viewing to discover the connection. This highly erotic show is just as intoxicating and addictive as the French liqueur for which it’s named. And just like the spirit, it might also be illegal in certain places. So leave the kids at home. (I mean it. Seriously!)
Absinthe is made up of seven regular (to use the term one way) acts who tour the world with this show, plus some local guest performers. On our visit, we were treated to the delightful Nate Cooper, who tap danced on roller skates, juggled knives, and negotiated a pair of huge platform heels, and Tom Noddy, an aging hippie-like dude who has supposedly spent 30 years blowing bubbles — with truly outrageous results.
Singer Camille O’Sullivan, a striking brunette with an unusual vocal sound, gets the party started with an idiosyncratic rendition of Jacques Brel’s “Carousel.” In the second act, she scores with the slighly naughty “In These Shoes” and a haunting a cappella version of “Falling in Love Again,” sung entirely in German, an homage to Marlene Dietrich, who performed the number in one of the original Spiegeltents back in the 1930s.
Fans of the male body won’t be disappointed by the two masculine acts on the bill. The English Gents are a pair of good-looking blokes who perform remarkable feats of acrobatic skill and balance. The incredibly handsome David O’Mer closes the show by performing amazing aerial tricks — shirtless and in tight jeans — while coming in and out of a water-filled bathtub. (Patrons in the first row are kindly given plastic covering to protect them.) You might be tempted to try O’Mer’s act at home, but you’d be wise to refrain.
On the distaff side, there’s the disarming trapeze artist Una Mimnagh and the beautiful Russian contortionist Yulia Pikhtina, who does more with a quartet of hula hoops than I ever thought possible. I was tickled pink — or should I say red — by Miss Behave (Amy Saunders), a comic force in a skintight, cherry-colored dress who does unthinkable things with scissors, swords, cigars, and table legs. And then there’s the decidedly unique Ursula Martinez, who not only speaks Spanish flawlessly, but has a very special way with a handkerchief.
Part of the reason to come see Absinthe — or any of the 80-or-so acts that will participate in this two-month festival — is simply to experience the actual Spiegeltent, the 70-year-old structure of wood and glass that is truly sui generis. It even comes complete with a bar inside for a quick intermission libation. (Unfortunately, the bathrooms are quite a walk away, on the second floor of the Seaport’s shopping mall). Meanwhile, I suggest coming early to enjoy the adjacent the outdoor beer garden. Or better yet, leave yourselves time after the show. You’re going to need those waterfornt breezes or an icy beer to cool off from the heat of Absinthe.