Payomet’s magical Halloween tale unfolds in the sky

CAPE COD TIMES– Payomet Cirque by the Sea’s Halloween production combines story and pantomime with dance, tumbling, aerialist and trapeze tricks, and sleight of hand.

By Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll - October 22, 2020 

Photo Courtesy of Payomet's Cirque by the SeaNORTH TRURO — High above a stage, at the edge of a field, in the middle of a brush-covered national seashore, three women defy expectations. And, it must be said, gravity.

Hanging by their feet, twisted in webs of ropes or yards of billowing fabric, pretzeled around a trapeze bar or each other, they swing, sway and tumble — gracefully dancing in the air.

Joined by the also awe-inspiring talents of juggler Trevor Pearson — who stays put on the stage but sends balls, pins and even skeleton parts spinning around and above him — the agile women tell a simple and often spookily funny Halloween story. But how they tell it is anything but simple.

“Wow!” a little voice from the audience kept exclaiming at the Wednesday-evening show of Payomet Cirque by the Sea’s “Scout! A Circus Scary-Tale.” My sentiments exactly.

The troupe has been performing daring feats in family-friendly shows all summer at the Drive-In Live stage set up at a former ballfield close to the site of Payomet Performing Arts Center’s usual giant tents. The hour-long shows are quintessential live entertainment for this pandemic time: The stage is well away from the audience and high enough that masked patrons of all ages, sitting in or just outside spaced-apart parked cars, can view all the action.

Wednesday night, kids sat on hoods of cars, and two enterprising little ones even stuck their heads and upper bodies out of a moon roof to get the best view. Appreciation was shown with gasps, frequent applause and, at the finale, car horns.

It’s a unique and memorable Halloween entertainment as professionally trained circus artists Eleanor Getz, Georgie Johnson and Gabrielle Teddy Ment silently act to an evocative musical soundtrack to tell the story of three young scouts on a camping trip. They share ghost stories around a fire, and after bedtime, one (Ment, adding comedy to her gymnastic feats with wild-eyed expressions) wakes up and goes off to investigate mysterious sounds.

In the woods, she encounters and fights off a nimble and crafty spider (a graceful Getz), a sinuously dangerous flying witch (Johnson, pulling off acrobatics in a long dress) and a creepy skeleton/Grim Reaper (dexterous Pearson).

Payomet calls this original mix “cirque theater,” and “Scout!” combines story and pantomime with dance, tumbling, aerialist and trapeze tricks, and sleight of hand. The result for this Halloween-season tale, which will also be brought to Cotuit Center for the Arts early next month, is a little creepy, more funny and primarily impressive. There’s a high level of “how did they do that?” here and, as one child put it, “That was so cool!”