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December 13, 2004

Aga-Boom (New Victory Theater, New York; 499 seats; $50 top)

A New Victory Theater presentation of a clown show in one act created and directed by Dimiti Bogatirev.
With: Dimitri Bogatirev, Iryna Ivanytska, Philip Briggs, Elena Nekrassova, Anton Bogatirev.


What begins with the minuteness of a buzzing fly ends with epic chaos in the audience, reflecting the childlike delights big and small of "Aga-Boom," a short confection of a show aimed primarily at the kiddie market but offering amusements for adults as well. Featuring veteran performers from Cirque du Soleil, Moscow Circus and Ringling Bros., the entertainment continually offers routines that engage its public, especially the smaller members. Kids can take special delight when several parents are pulled onstage to participate in some sublime silliness. The clearly talented performers never make the piece a whole with any sense of narrative, theme or even characters that have a clear and consistent relationship with each other. What's presented is play, pure and simple -- and that's fine and fun, too.

The piece begins with Iryna Ivanytska, in wild bushy hair and dressed in a colorful outfit of stitched rags, who comes in sweeping the stage with a broom but instead creates great waves of dust. Cleanliness, it seems, is not next to clownliness, and if "Aga-Boom" means anything, it is "neatness does not count." Eventually, she comes across a "do not touch" button onstage, which, of course, after agonizing comic attempts to resist temptation, she touches. In doing so, she unleashes the other characters and their specialty shtick, including the boisterous, juggling Dimitri Bogatirev (show's creator) and the strange and slightly foreboding Philip Briggs. Later, contortionist Elena Nekrassova does a limber and graceful routine. Nine-year-old Anton Bogatirev also is well-used in his brief appearances. But what marks the show is not people so much as paper. (The title of the show is a play on the Russian word for paper, "boomaga.") The backdrop for the show is a giant rumpled paper curtain, and when it begins to tear via various routines as the show progresses, the feeling of emerging anarchy is palpable.

The climax of the show is sure to be one the kids will remember more than anything else. Wads of paper, confetti and toilet paper are projected into the audience to the crowd's delight. Then giant, air-filled garbage bags enter the fray as great beach balls, successively getting bigger and bigger in the comic chaos. Soon the theater is a wondrous mess. No child in the aud will ever hear the words "clean your room" the same way again.

Sets and costumes, Clown Action; lighting, Nick McCord; music, Vasily Bogatirev; sound, Yuri Fedorko; production stage manager, Shelley Stevens.
Opened Dec. 3, 2004. Reviewed Dec. 12. Runs through Jan. 16.
Running time: 1HOUR, 20 MIN.