Last weekend at The Green Fairy Cabaret, a fortunate few turned down a side street just off Germantown Avenue to enter an unassuming building. For the admission price of $20, guests were greeted with a free glass of red wine as they filed into folding chairs lined up across a gymnasium floor. The show, a reference to the literary term for absinthe – the drink that led so many late-19th century poets and playwrights on wild mind-rides – featured performers from the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts as part of the 2011 Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe.

Anyone expecting Cirque du Soleil might have felt a wash of disappointment as necks tilted back to take in the ceiling height – only about two stories. But as lights dimmed and the MC, like a conjurer unraveling his colored handkerchief, nonchalantly tweaked at pieces of a Victorian-style suit to reveal flashes of green material, suspension of disbelief began working its traditional magic.

Through the skilfully seductive guidance of the MC, audience members toasted, clapped, and laughed their way through the twisting series of performances set to music and philosophical meanderings. A carefully interwoven script – inspired by the words of Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire, and Arthur Rimbaud, to name a few – tugged at the imaginations of the audience like so many puppet strings. Featuring acrobats, rope climbers, a juggler, and even a clown, the small space allowed for an unprecedentedly intimate journey into gravity-defying interpretations of absinthe visions.

If The Green Fairy Cabaret was any indication, then the 2011 Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe is a not-to-be-missed experience. With just the right dash of mischievous bravado and inspired effort, this year’s performances should offer the perfect escape from the monotony of the daily grind.

The Festival ends this Saturday, September 17. Look for InLiquid member Lynette Shelley’s work during an on-screen art show at Wawapalooza 5: Under Destruction at the Society Hill Playhouse.

Lauren Rinaldi

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