2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘Exile 2588’ at Almanac Dance Circus Theatre

Inspired by the ancient Greek myth of Io, the principles of existential risk and human enhancement ethics considered by Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrum, and the popular genre of science fiction, Almanac Dance Circus Theatre, under the dramaturgical direction of Nick Jonczak, has created an ingenious space epic that raises the big issues about life, death, and the destiny of humankind in Exile 2588. Using an old story to tell a new one, the futuristic adaptation follows the peregrinations of Io, here exiled from earth for committing the first homicide in over 500 years (or was it a mercy killing, or assisted suicide?), on a planet where all inhabitants have been granted eternal life.

Nick Gillette, Nicole Burgio, and Ben Grinberg. Photo by Daniel Kontz Design.
Nick Gillette, Lauren Johns, and Ben Grinberg. Photo by Daniel Kontz Design.

Almanac’s remarkably gifted ensemble of creators/performers (Ben Grinberg, Nick Gillette, Nicole Burgio, Mark Wong, and Lauren Johns) combines its signature style of dazzling acrobatics, engaging acting, and amusing wit with the narration, commentary, and original live folk music composed and performed by the supremely talented duo Chickabiddy (Aaron Cromie and Emily Schuman. That’s a whole lot of superlatives in one brilliantly entertaining and thought-provoking 65-minute show!

The work’s breathtaking physicality–with spectacular solo routines of breakdancing by Wong and static trapeze by Burgio (all of the daredevil dance and circus skills are performed without a net or safety harness)–and haunting musical harmonies (among the most poignant mood-setting numbers are the opening “Origin Song” and the provocative finale “If I Were Infinite,” which has all of the makings of a stand-alone hit) are supported by a top-notch design.

Chickabiddy (Emily Schuman and Aaron Cromie). Photo by Daniel Kontz Design.
Chickabiddy (Emily Schuman and Aaron Cromie). Photo by Daniel Kontz Design.

Peter Smith’s sleek set of geometric black-and-white panels is enhanced by Robin Stamey’s glowing colored lights, and costumes by Natalia de la Torre cleverly evoke the style of the future in functional dance and exercise gear that permits the performers full mobility.

After captivating us with movement, music, and storytelling, Exile 2588 leaves us pondering the timeless questions about mortality and wondering if unending life at all cost is truly better than a natural life cycle and ultimate death. This is really heady stuff; don’t miss it.

Design by Thomas Romer at Chop Shop.
Design by Thomas Romer at Chop Shop.

Running Time: 65 minutes, without intermission.

Exile 2588 plays through Friday, September 23, 2016, performing at the Painted Bride Art Center – 230 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call (215) 413-1318, or purchase them online.

Watch a preview video of Exile 2588.




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