Tobias Wegner is not only a brilliant circus performer, but a magician too. Leo, a Complètement Cirque show playing at the Théâtre Outremont, is a tromp l’oeil that submits gravity to Wegner’s will. It takes place in two identical rooms containing only a light bulb and a small suitcase. There is also an identical man in each. The only difference is that the room on the right is tipped over so the floor lies where we would assume the right-hand wall would be. As Wegner – dashing in his bowler hat and tie – runs, leaps, and jives along the walls in his room on the right, the image is reoriented in the box on the left. A reorientation that allows him to scale walls, hang from the ceiling and take a quick water break while hovering five feet in the air. I’m sure there’s a much more concise way to describe this reality renversant, directed by Québec experimental theatre legend Daniel Brière, but it’s best if you just see it yourself.
If gravity-defying acrobatics aren’t enough, Wegner is also an immensely compelling performer and a brilliant comic. He makes the swish of his tie or a toss of his hat as entertaining as a backflip. It certainly helps that his hat flies back toward him like a boomerang, but the visual effects of the show never overshadow his talent as a physical actor. And he’s got rhythm on top of it all. His Mary Poppins-style luggage transforms into a radio at one point, and he gives his all in an acro/dance/comedy spectacle to the tune of Sinatra’s “I’ve Got the World on a String” – a very apt theme song for the show.
Wegner takes his sideways world one step farther by drawing the room furnishings in chalk. He adds a cat, a fishbowl, and even a bird on the window sill, all coming to life with projected animation. A small, clumsy mishap with the fishbowl leads to the entire room filling up with water, leaving Wegner swimming amidst his furniture and even a whale. (Confession: It was only at this point, when the projection technology is thrown in your face, that I fully accepted there was only one man on stage. I was sitting in the balcony, so it wasn’t too far of a stretch to think the two men were just eerily similar.)
Needless to say, he escapes the ocean, but he’s still trapped in his box-like surrounding. For the first time, Wegner’s manipulation of gravity is not a source of power, but distress. And the poor audience, who has just been visually stunned, and had their brain twisted into a knot trying to figure out which way is up, is now thrown into a state of pathos. Leo is a roller coaster in so many ways, but it’s one you don’t want to miss.
Leo plays until July 10th at Théâtre Outremont.