Los Angeles Times
October 7, 2002

"Aga-Boom" Speaks the Language of Clowns

The all-Russian program showcases the talents of circus veterans to create a performance that's raucous and silly.


The stereotyped image of Russia is so gloomy-the winters, the wars-that the last thing one expects from an all-Russian theatrical program is infectiously silly fun. But that's what the clown show "Aga-Boom" provided at the Ivar Theatre in Hollywood over the weekend.

Indeed, the grand finale of "Aga-Boom" came closer to being literally riotous-as in so funny that the audience did more than just laugh--than any theatrical experience within memory. But more about that in a moment.

The creator and director of "Aga-Boom" is Dmitri Bogatirev, a former Cirque du Soleil clown. His colleagues are Cirque alumna Irina Ivanitska, Ringling Bros. and Great Moscow Circus veteran Alexander Chervotkin, plus contortionist Elena Chervotkina.
The primary theme of the evening was the Sisyphean struggle to clean up our rooms-and by extension, our world. The evening began with Ivanitska, in a white fright wig, stark makeup and yellowish but motley cloak, sweeping the floor, generating more and more dust as she moved.

Faced with a prominently displayed red gadget on the wall that said "Do Not Touch," she struggled with the temptation and finally succumbed, at first without serious consequences. But eventually her encounter with the gadget brought on chaos and the arrival of her compatriots.

First Chervotkin appeared, in a giant suit that appeared ready for outer space or earthly hazmat duty, his features made up in an exaggerated Buster Keaton-like pallor that suggested perpetual ambivalence.

Then Bogatirev arrived, dressed more formally in classic baggy pants, red nose and serious 5 o'clock shadow, with hair leaping vigorously off his pate in three directions, including straight up.

Many of the ensuing routines used cleaning materials--toilet paper, a mop and its detachable parts, and plastic garbage bags. Most of these materials ended up as trash themselves. If you paused to think, you might have found an environmental statement in there somewhere.

But "Aga-Boom" was devoid of an explicit message-or even speech of any kind. As in Cirque tradition, however, the sounds of the evening were wild, a recorded score that helped shift the scenes and moods, credited only to sound designer Yuri Fedorko.

Physical dexterity and grace emerged, despite the apparent unwieldiness of the costumes. Chervotkin demonstrated his seatless unicycle, and Bogatirev was able to spin a valise and toy airplanes into patterns.

The pacing began to slow during a paper folding and tearing routine that went on little bit long. But Chervotkina varied the rhythms with an act in which she manipulated a white, neutral mask so that it appeared to grow out of her lithe, black-clad frame from a range of unusual angles.

Only one audience volunteer was drafted for duty on stage-to take care of a "baby" created from a mop. But virtually the entire audience became swept up in the aforementioned grand finale, in which a succession of ever-bigger inflated garbage bags were hurled into the auditorium. Everyone took vast delight in batting them around the theater, to the accompaniment of maniacal music.

The kids in the audience were on cloud nine, but hardly more so than the adults. Parental alert: There is talk that "Aga-Boom" may return to town for the holidays.

October 7, 2002