Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes
Philadelphia Fringe Festival
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule

Also see Rebecca's reviews of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Strange Tenants and Cameron's reviews of Elizabeth Cree and Red Velvet

Nicole Burgio, Ben Grinberg, Adam Kerbel,
and Nick Gillette

Photo by Daniel Kontz
Almanac Dance Circus Theatre's entry to the 2017 Fringe Festival has a lot going for it. There are impressive acrobatics accompanied by otherworldly music, an innovative narrative communicated largely through movement, and an art installation that asks you to put your head in the clouds and then delivers it somewhere strange. There is also a surpassing sense of intimate vulnerability that makes Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes even greater than the sum of its parts.

Most of the story takes place on a ship sailed by four admirably idealistic but achingly naive friends. The group plans to leave their lives behind forever and start a new world together on the sea. Without distractions they will live every moment fully committed to each other and the practice of their acrobatic art. Along the way they explore issues of dedication,purity, love, and belonging.

Partner tumbling and expressive movement are central to Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes, but this is no three-ring circus or Cirque du Soleil extravaganza. This space is too intimate to hide sweaty brows and trembling muscles. There are no sparkly costumes to conceal errors or effort. Annie Wilson's remarkable direction and choreography embraces this vulnerability. The audience feels an authentic connection with the ensemble as they strive together toward ever greater heights. It is a powerful experience.

The live music score by Melanie Hsu is eerie and excellent. Hsu sings and plays a variety of instruments that she records, loops, and mixes with her computer. The installation by Clancy Philbrick and Robin Starney is a key component of the performance (more on that in a moment) and the team's clever design turns the entire performance space into a ship.

A bit more character development early on would make Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes even better. Wordy descriptions and explicit explanations could ruin the play's aesthetic, but providing a little more information about the characters' personality traits and motivations—communicated by dialogue or choreography—would go a long way. There is a lot be learned about the characters in the journals on display as part of the art installation upstairs, but not everyone had the opportunity before the start of the show.

Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes is incredible and thought provoking. Watching the company dance, balance and climb to Hsu's mesmerizing soundscape is an unforgettable experience. Make sure you arrive early, take the time to read all of the material, and have a safe voyage.

Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes runs through September 23rd, 2017, at the Painted Bride Arts Center, 230 Vine Street. For tickets visit

Created and Performed by Nicole Burgio, Nick Gillette, Ben Grinberg, Adam Kerbel
Words by Josh McIlvain
Directed and Choreographed by Annie Wilson
Live, Original Music by Mel Hsu (original "Seafarers" theme by Patrick Lamborn)
Lighting, Set, and Installation Design by Clancy Philbrick and Robin Stamey