With Halloween nigh and the holidays approaching, it’s time for The Cabiri’s annual celebration of pagan mythology, part of its ongoing Ghost Game series. Winternacht is a collection of seven folk tales and myths enacted via the local company’s signature combination of aerial work and acrobatic dance. These stories recall dark, cold olden times, when danger is always close by. At its best, Winternacht is like a pocket version of Cirque de Soleil, as we watch fantastical gymnasts spinning above us. But unlike Cirque, whose productions are more fanciful, Cabiri’s stories derive from ancient foundation tales. The evening is part grad thesis, part cabaret show. (Absinthe, champagne, and dessert options help put you in the mood.)
One of the challenges of using aerial choreography is finding a theatrical reason for performers to hang from the ceiling. Here, the flying and swinging help transform Cabiri dancers into superhuman gods and monsters. If one dancer has both feet on the ground, and another hovers overhead, it fits the mythic realm where men grovel and gods fly.
Everyone plays multiple roles, from yetis and ghosts to feckless humans, but standouts include John Murphy’s stilt-walking Morozco (aka Old Man Winter) and aerialist Charly McCreary as the unnamed daughter of the sea god Aruna, who connives with her father in a Hittite legend—then is thwarted by winter. With a pale blue zoot suit and spiky white hair, Steffon Moody is a hipster version of Herman Munster as the show’s emcee, while Andi Norris’ narrator flirts with the audience from behind her oversized storybook.
Winternacht is full of the scary stories we loved to hear as children, plus the fantasy roleplaying that fascinates some adults. The show brings to mind Comic-Con, steampunk, and the Society for Creative Anachronism. Considered as part of that historical- fantastical tradition, putting Hittite gods on a trapeze makes perfect sense.