By Joe Lugara

Send in the Clowns!


We may occasionally (or frequently) think of our political leaders as clowns, or at the very least, as the tail ends of double-manned vaudeville horses. But how many circuses bypass the Barnum and Bailey-trained clown for the periodic refined buffoonery of our three branches of government, and the occasionally (or frequently) loopy population it serves? Introducing, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Victory Over Everything Circus. A production of the Vermont-based Bread & Puppet Theater, the Victory Over Everything Circus isn't exclusively for kids. The theater describes the 45-minute performance as "a family show — big and noisy", but admits frankly that kids won't get all the content. The trappings, though, are decidedly circus-like: the comedy is slapstick; the performers use puppets and wear enormous masks reminiscent of puppet heads; and the music is as unsubtle as circus music gets, with cymbal clashes and big drums. Performers even dance around in the aforementioned double-manned animal suits — only as zebras, not horses, in the show's "Zebras of Consumer Confidence" sketch. (There are also "Tigers of Consumption"). In traditional circuses the acts change strictly for reasons of variety, but in the political/social ring of the Victory Over Everything Circus, the acts have to change to keep pace with what's happening. (Not that your kids will notice, but you might). Some continuing topics consistently fuel the circus with material: the "No Child Left Behind" act, for example, begins with kids in a boat and ends with kids in the water, swimming for it. If that doesn't remind you that Mr. Ringling has left the building, nothing will. Away from the home front, the conflict in Iraq supplies its own opportunities. In the evenings, the theater will be offering, for adults, their "Standing-In-The-Way-Bystander Commemoration", a memorial service centered on an 18-foot-high puppet memorial dedicated to the collateral damage victims in Iraq. The Commemoration concludes with a dance performed by the Collateral Damage Dancers, an act supplemented with cardboard puppets and an ancient chant.

Info: Where: Theater for The New City, 155 First Avenue (at 10th Street) When: Weekends through December 21. Saturday and Sunday matinees will take place at 3pm, December 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21; the "Standing-In-The-Way-Bystander Commemoration" will be performed on a double bill in the evenings. How much: $10 adults; $5 children For more info: (212) 254-1109