Club Fugazi’s new show literally jumps through hoops to amaze and astound, as Dear San Francisco takes the acrobatic circus genre to dizzying new heights.
The first thing you will notice when you walk into Club Fugazi for Dear San Francisco is what appears to be two exceptionally tall stripper poles on the stage. You will soon learn that these are not stripper poles, but “Chinese poles,” and then you will see the inspired and mind-blowing tricks of “unicycle pole dancing” that are unlike any acrobatic stunt you’ve seen attempted onstage. That’s just the beginning of the head-spinning array of stunts that define Dear San Francisco, which opened Tuesday night for an open-ended run to replace the venerable and storied Beach Blanket Babylon. The show will not stop making you gasp or shriek with anxiety at the cast’s death-defying barrage of acrobatics, trapeze acts, juggling, and expertly performed high-risk stunts.
We’ve known for more than six months that Pickle Family Circus product Gypsy Snider and Z Space founder David Dower had a show in the works specifically tailored to North Beach’s Club Fugazi, and that it would essentially reboot a Montreal troupe called 7 Fingers Circus.
But none of this prepares the viewer for the freaky adrenaline rush of acrobats hurling their bodies directly at you. (Don’t worry! They very good at catching one another.) Their moves are a relentless barrage of potentially neck-breaking maneuvers that will elicit a constant stream of audience applause, and make clever use of the space and a set build that contains almost no scenery, but keeps your interest because people keep leaping off of things that are absolutely unreasonable to leap from.
The name Dear San Francisco tells you that the show is a love letter, but it is certainly not a linear history. It's a montage of neighborhood tributes and acknowledgements of various cultural movements of the last century-plus, pastiched together with projections across all of the theater’s walls to achieve a certain dreamy quality. Even in the slower segments of interpretive dance or schmaltziness, the show is very relatable, and the gags and humor will always reemerge. This show barrels nonstop for 90 minutes with no intermission, yet it never drags.
The reborn Club Fugazi, though, is still a work in progress. There is currently no cocktail service or snacks, though management tells us those are both in the works. (You will likely only be able to enjoy those before the show, however, or maybe up in the mezzanine where they can't be kicked over by a performer.) You do not yet get a paper program for the show. The audience seats are not numbered, you’re stuck with a trial and error QR code system on laminated pieces of paper. These are kinks the venue will surely work through, but they’re there during the show’s early running.
But can Dear San Francisco run 45 years, like Beach Blanket Babylon did? It could. The show has an amazingly broad appeal, and is surprisingly G-rated compared to Babylon. It has local credibility, but is quite accessible to tourists, and you can take your Aunt Tilly when she’s visiting town. The block may still be called Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard, but its new blockbuster resident may be there for a long time.
Images: The cast of Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story Photo credit: Kevin Berne