THE PETITE PALACE
Devised, Directed, and Performed By
Dick Monday & Tiffany Riley
Bath House Cultural Center
Devised, Directed, and Performed By
Dick Monday & Tiffany Riley
Kerlly & Dario Vazquez
Kelli & Julio Ramazini
Robert Lok & Ievgeniia Pokrovska
Producers - Laughter League, Matthew Morgan, Dario Vazquez
Director – Dick Monday
Choreographer - Tiffany Riley
Tent Master – Dario Vasquez
Production Coordinator – Carson Wright
Technical Director – Stewart Mikkelsen
Sound Designer – Rich Frohlich, RF Media
Stage Manager – Anna Klawitter
Ring Crew Boss – Sam Ward
Ring Crew Team – Ben Villasensor, Truett Adams, Kat Krone, Gina Gunsalus
House Manager – Ed Gunsalus
Concessions – Beth and Al Ward
Marketing Director – Paulette Hopkins, Bluspark Agency
Reviewed Performance: 10/18/2019
Reviewed by Travis McCallum, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I am a lover of the circus. The warm smell of popcorn wafting just right outside the pitched tent, enticing a passing crowd with delicious promise. The sounds of upbeat carnival tunes energize adults with nostalgic anticipation and brightly dressed performers outfit the exterior for a taste of what’s to come. Skip Gladstone, famed wizard of the circus troupe greets passersby with eclectic charm and young children flock around him with curious minds.
The show takes place in a small tent where a score of 100+ audience members are squished in wooden chairs around an arena stage no larger than 10 x 10’ by my estimations. Both the audience proximity and stage size are of great significance to take note of when you attend the show. As the Petite Palace states in its program, “This isn’t your grandfather’s circus… we promise!”
The Petite Palace lays the groundwork for its troupe early on. The origin of the name stems from the underlying plot of medieval monarchy of English descent. Its cast an archetype of the most famous members of that society.
The King is played by Dick Monday, a man of authority and rich with power. He is joined with his hard-working Servant (Tiffany Riley) whom fulfills his everyday desires. This dynamic duo lights up the stage with their slapstick comedy act. The amount of attention to detail and foresight in their stories is amazing when they can take a simple concept like bubbles or paper and turn them into something truly magical. Who knew fashion could be so funny to watch?
The two knights, Sir Rob (Robert Lok) and Sir Julio (Julio Ramazini) enter behind the king, both to court the lovely princess Emma Foster. At first glance, you think our attractive knights are the normal actors of the bunch. But when the king’s most powerful wizard (Gladstone) brings gifts to share, stupidity is quickly found as a universal trait all of us possess. (I mean that in the nicest possible way).
Last to be formally introduced is the court juggler Dario Vasquez, a man of incredible charisma. He dazzles us with a variety of odd items to juggle, each with their own special tricks. Just like there isn’t only one way to teach a dog new tricks, so too there’s more than way to juggle things than just with your hands. Wait till you see what Vasquez can do with his mouth!
To complement Sir Rob we are graced with the talented Ievegeniia Pokrovska, a legendary gymnast. My favorite part of the show was her balancing act on a series of open wine bottles high above the ground. The technical challenge of moving across fragile glass where a single misstep could lead to a bloody fatality is frightening to watch. At the same time, it’s what makes the circus so mesmerizing!
The audience held their breadth with each delicate move Pokrovska deliberated on as the crescendo of music mounted a successive finish. Everyone rallied together to celebrate her dangerous endeavor with a triumphant cry. Meanwhile, the chivalrous Sir Rob stood patiently by, ready to leap in and save the day lest the gymnast swoon to her demise. What a man!
Not to be bested, Sir Julio brought his own companion front and center. Kelli Ramazini takes flight as an aerial performer, ravishing the audience with her flowing acrobatics. I sit there mystified by the flexibility of Kelli, oft admiring the beautiful silhouette of her shadow adorning the ceiling interior of our tent. The woman reminded me of a real-life version of those musical boxes from an age lost long ago.
So too Sir Julio was enthralled by her grace, idly perched below. What a woman!
Skipp Gladstone returns again. This time his magician tricks outstand even the most cynical of skeptics. A simple card trick using ESP. How does he do it? Nobody knows. His showmanship is so powerful, does anyone even care? I could stare at Gladstone for hours and never get bored.
There’s an elephant in the room. His name is Mark Gindick. He’s not your average Joe and bears the brunt of pain from the many pranks and jokes played by our performers. What makes him so good at his job? Mr. Gindick is an eternal optimist, invigorated with hope. His resilience and grit to overcome all obstacles pays off because… if he’s lucky… he’ll be the only one getting a big wet one from someone special.
Don’t expect Gindick to take pain without collateral damage. The audience is sure to receive retaliation at some point. Remember though, it’s all in good sport.
To help assuage the sadness, fame songstress Lily Monday serenades us with a musical number on her ukulele. Her tender voice brings serendipity and all that was broken whole again. Encore Monday. Encore. (Thanks Dick for the harmonica support!)
Unscripted. Interactive. The Petite Palace is a visceral amalgamation of comedy and spectacle of utmost intimate value. Unlike PT Barnum’s shock value, Dick demonstrates the core ethics of clowning—showing vulnerability and trust in each other.
Obvious techniques of great comedy are still used, like the 1-2-3 punch of jokes, where the audience has just enough time to process and form a pattern before the big finisher happens. In duo pieces, typically one person is the straight-faced, while the other plays the doofus. Who would have ever expected to see Dick wearing a diaper onstage? It takes a lot of humility to make a fool of yourself.
Granted, there were many times throughout the show where performers messed up their tricks. But the stuff they are doing onstage is incredibly difficult and anytime there was a mistake like a ball flying out in the audience, performers improvised. More importantly, audience members were extremely supportive, sending misfired items back to their respective owners. One audience yelled voraciously, ‘You can do it!’ to Tiffany after her 3rd attempt at making a bubble the size of a dining room table.
An act doesn’t always need words to convey emotion and meaning. Gindick spent 10 minutes walking us through a story, rich with a beginning middle and end. Many acts were reminiscent of the Charlie Chaplin black-and-white films of the 20th century.
When I asked audience members what their favorite acts were, many said they couldn’t decide because of all of them were amazing. Whether it be Tiffany ensnaring herself in a giant balloon, or Sir Rob balancing Pokrovska atop stilts and jump roping 10 feet in the air, happy times are to be had.
Dick says, “We would love to have an audience because it makes it more fun.” I would pay way more than the $30 to see this talented cast again. If I were a producer, I would fund the troupe to do even more amazing things. I was unable to see all the cast members represented in the program, which I imagine might be the result of rotating acts to accommodate for personal schedules. At almost 2 hours worth of showtime, it’s a lot to chew!
The Petite Palace
Performed at the Bath House Cultural Center
521 E Lawther Dr, Dallas, TX 75218
October 18- November 3
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