nytheatre.com review by Lucile Scott
August 18, 2008
Chandeleirva, written and performed by comedian and former Cirque de Soleil performer Suzette Araujo, is a bit like VH1's Behind the Music told on stage by a whimsical and presumably Russian clown. Chandeleirva is a diva—with a red plastic nose. She growls at the tech booth; thirsts for the love of her audience; throws plastic flowers at herself and then charmingly thanks individuals from the crowd, asking them how they knew she likes flowers. But it seems, alas, that Chandeleirva, who is a very musical clown and sings frequently throughout the show, has lost her music, and so for the following 60 minutes Araujo charts where Chandeleirva's music came from in the first place and how it subsequently got drowned in a bottle of vodka and a broken heart.
Araujo has a beautiful, soulful singing voice that fits her tales of rural Eastern European woes, beginning just before Chandeleirva's birth in a town with a fake name, a fact that adds to the mythical and universal feeling of the play as a parable about art, divadom, and clowns. She effectively inhabits her archetypal characters, giving then humor and heart, including her organ-playing grandfather, her drunk mother, and herself as a child. From entering covered in a gold cape to giving birth to a piece of lace from a vaginal pocketbook to rolling about passionately on stage with her lover Pedro, played by a very debonair blow up doll, Araujo and director Evan Tsitsias beautifully weave an aura of whimsy into the show.
In addition to telling her life story, Chandeleirva spends much of the time shuffling, self-deprecating, and tripping, which, while amusing, occurs a little too much, slowing the tempo of the play and making dead space in what could be filled with tricks (I wouldn't have minded seeing some Cirque de Soleil-esque acrobatics) or adding a few more dimensions to the fairly basic plot. But Chandeleirva is cute, loveable and sad, as all the best clowns are. And toward the end of the show, when she cried out for someone to help save her from a billowing pile of blue cloth, a woman from the audience pulled her up, hugged her, and told her that we love her and we are glad that she's here.