Grandma and Friends

By Kay Kipling July 3, 2011

Looking for a little light summer entertainment? You could certainly do worse than head over to the Historic Asolo Theater for Grandma and Friends--this year’s version of the annual summer collaboration between Circus Sarasota and the Ringling Museum.

It’s a shorter installment of the kind of family fun you get in the winter shows that Circus Sarasota puts on under the Big Top. But here, in a smaller, more intimate space, you can feel an even closer bond to the performers.

Those performers, introduced by circus co-founder Pedro Reis, include members of the longtime circus family, the Cristianis; a Russian juggler named Miss Gena; a balancing act known as Le Vision; aerial star Dolly Jacobs; and, of course, the Grandma of the show’s title (Big Apple Circus stalwart Barry Lubin).

Grandma is a clown, but not necessarily the kind of clown you’re used to seeing. At first he/she seems almost too quiet for a clown (not speaking aloud, although mouthing words to Reis), and you won’t see anything too wild or crazy in the performance.

Grandma, attired in baggy clothing and equipped with some white make-up and a gray wig, may actually remind you of a grandmother, if you had a particularly wacky one. Maybe that’s why the little kids in the audience especially seem to respond to her as she gradually nudges her way into the spotlight, whether it’s doing her “workout” routine astride a treadmill or using bicycle horns and whoopee cushions to imitate the instruments of an orchestra. As is so often the case, it sounds simple, and yet it’s all in the way Lubin does it, and the rapport he establishes with the audience.

Perhaps that rapport is even stronger in the Historic Asolo, and perhaps that’s why you feel sympathetic towards a Cristiani family member when a challenging twist on the trampoline doesn’t work the first time out (don’t worry, it always will eventually) or can marvel even more at the work of Le Vision, a male-female act that is like watching statuary come to life. It’s always a little painful to me to watch these balancing acts, imagining the strain it must put on the performers’ muscles, but this pair is the epitome of grace as well as strength as they slowly twist and glide around each other and in general perform the impossible.

Of course it’s always lovely to see Jacobs soaring high to beautiful music, and juggler Miss Gena keeps things in the air expertly, too, whether it’s hoops or pins or balls. A little daring, a lot of skill, and a goofy Grandma--what more could you want from a show bound to please all ages that clocks in at just about an hour?

The show continues with certain dates and times through July 31; for tickets call 360-7399 or go to

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