I come from a background of theater, busking and children’s entertainment. As such, I know a little bit about magic, a little bit about balloon sculpting and a little bit about juggling. After watching Water on Mars, though, it became clear to me that I actually know a very little bit about juggling.
“For audience members who expect to see a typical juggling show, we’re glad to disappoint you.”
– Wes, Tony, and Patrik of Plastic Boom
The above quote is the first thing you read about the show in the New Victory Theater‘s Playbill. While I was impressed at the blunt confidence of the statement, I’m a New Yorker. I don’t impress easily. Plus, I knew a little bit about juggling, so I figured I’d be a tough audience.
But I’m nothing compared to my kid. Liam’s energy reserves are roughly equivalent to those of the sun. He must be doing something, or on the way to be doing something, at all times, always. So the 60-minute run time of the show made me nervous. Could he get through it?
The good news was that the New Victory Theater has activities for children before the show. There are tables with puzzles and a room where kids can give juggling a try for themselves. That was good news for parents and kids because giving the children a chance to burn off some energy before they need to sit still for a while is always a good thing, and actually trying juggling increases their interest in what they’re about to see.
So anyway, now we’re in our seats and Liam gets bored in all of 1.5 seconds and begins asking over and over again when the show is starting and complaining that he wants to go back downstairs. He’s 3, he doesn’t do the whole “patience” thing. He’s made me leave events and shows before, and his tone was ominous. Hoo boy.
Mercifully, the lights went down quickly, and away we went.
Plastic Boom, the performers responsible for what we would see unfold, are, quite simply, world renowned. Wes Peden is from right here in New York State, Tony Pezzo is from St. Louis, and Patrik Elmnert is from Uppsala, Sweden. All of them have won the top awards one can receive in this art form, have set Guinness World Records for juggling, and/or both. This show that they’ve designed has been performed all over the world, in Finland, Ireland, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, and many more.
They captured Liam’s attention right away.
It’s hard to describe what we saw at Water on Mars, other than to say, nobody ever stops moving. The performers interact, intertwine and interpret the art of juggling into something you’ve never seen before. They combine magic, sleight of hand, acrobatics, comedy and vivid color to create a neon painting, using the air in front of you, as their canvas.
None of them stop moving. Even when only one or both performers are engaged, the third will do jumping jacks in the background. None of them stop surprising you. Performers effortlessly create rainbow showers, or balance on a partner who then begins to dance around the stage, or pop out of the box they’d been patiently waiting in to make their entrance.
Ah, yes — the box. While this particular routine happens halfway through the show, this was what taught me that I only know a bit about juggling. One performer juggles three balls, and the other manipulates a plastic see-through box. The first guy juggles while the second holds the box over the balls he’s juggling; then switches it so the box is over his head; then holds it so the balls can be reverse juggled, bouncing off of the top of the inside of the box; to bouncing them off the box as it circles around him, constantly changing its elevation from higher to lower.
Basically, this was a masterful display of the absolute fundamentals of the art form. It may not be as spectacular as some of their other routines with multiple neon clubs and/or rings and/or whatever else comes to their minds; or taping themselves or each other, or taping themselves to each other while juggling; but it absolutely puts on display how much of their lives these guys have dedicated to the art.
I may only know a bit about juggling, but that routine in particular illustrated how much they knew about it.
Liam was transfixed. He sat forward in his seat, exclaimed in joy and surprise, and even forgot to ask incessant questions throughout the show, like he did the next day when we saw The Lego Batman Movie. That’s a big thing, folks.
At any rate, the show continued to amaze and astound, looking less like a juggling display than frenetic athletes setting off fireworks. “Ooohs” and “aaahs” were the most common reactions from the audience besides the clapping.
They gathered speed slowly but surely and the amazing finale involved not only, clubs, rings, incredible balancing acts, but rolls of toilet paper, open water bottles, and massive candy bars that get tossed to the kids watching the show.
We loved it. Go see it. They were right. We were expecting just a juggling show, and we were disappointed.
They call the show Water On Mars because that title “represents discovery and the joy of finding something new and surprising.” They ain’t lying. That’s all you need to know.
Especially if you already know a bit about juggling.
— “Water on Mars” runs at the New Victory Theater, 229 W. 42nd St., Manhattan, through Feb. 26.