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Handstands and Handshakes Are the Stuff of Male Bonding in Bromance

A trio of young acrobats take on gender stereotypes in their family-friendly show at the New Victory Theater.

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Louis Gift, Charlie Wheeller (on a Cyr wheel), and Beren D'Amico bring their show Bromance to the New Victory Theater.
(© Chris Nash)

Part of the thrill of an acrobatics act is seeing performers test the limits of what the human body can do. The three talented young men who make up UK-based Barely Methodical Troupe test more than those limits in their 50-minute show, Bromance, now running at the New Victory Theater. While performing some seriously impressive physical feats and engaging in a fair amount of clowning around, Beren D'Amico, Louis Gift, and Charlie Wheeller question assumptions about male-to-male expressions of friendship and implicitly ask why society is so uptight about platonic displays of affection between men.

This can be a sensitive issue for American males, who tend to be more or less touch-averse with each other. But Barely Methodical knows there's nothing wrong with affectionate horseplay and friendly hugs between dudes. With Led Zeppelin's ''Ramble On" blaring as they take the stage, the trio begin their act by poking fun at that most basic of male physical encounters — the handshake — with a ridiculous series of hand-grabbing that ultimately results in them sniffing one another's armpits. That might strike adults as odd, but the persistent giggling and loud laughter of the children in the audience prove that these guys are showmen who know how to play to their target audience — kids.

The Barely Methodical Troupe demonstrate their acrobatics skills.
(© Chris Nash)

Director Eddie Kay keeps the show lively by alternating laugh-inducing tomfoolery like that with impressively choreographed stunt routines backed up by eclectic music selections like Lee Fields's "Faithful Man" and Son Lux's "Stand." In one routine, the tall, muscular Gift performs an acrobatic pas de deux with the agile D'Amico that's full of eye-popping flips and twirls. All three join again for a testosterone-fueled dance number set to Tone Lōc's "Wild Thing" before strolling to the back of the stage, where they pretend to use three folding chairs as men's-room urinals. A potentially awkward moment for parents occurs when they turn around, each holding an origami swan (all of different sizes) near his waist. Younger kids will probably miss the innuendo, but the joke doesn't land very well anyway with the mixed audience.

The highlight of the show comes when Wheeller performs his dizzying routine on the Cyr wheel, a large circle of heavy metal that seems to defy the laws of physics as he twirls inside it in the pose of a Vitruvian Man. "So cool!" one young audience member exclaimed as Wheeller spun around the stage while contorting himself within. It's an impressive feat that's matched only by the finale, when the whole bare-chested troupe gets together for a potentially dangerous stunt, illuminated by Elliot Griggs's dramatic lighting, that elicits gasps and cheers. (No spoilers here.)

Whether Barely Methodical Troupe effectively dismantles some of the stereotypes surrounding masculinity with their touch-intensive show is up for debate. But in a time when the nature of appropriate touching is being vigorously discussed, Bromance makes a good entry point for parents who want to broach the topic with kids ages 7 and up. In one way or another, Bromance gets our wheels turning.

Bromance runs through February 25 at the New Victory Theater.
(© Chris Nash)
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