Christina Gelsone and Seth Bloom in "Air Play" at Seattle Children's Theatre. Credit: Florence Montmare for Acrobuffos Show LLC
Seattle Children’s Theatre’s season finale, “Air Play,” is so unique that it sparked a lively conversation in the post-show restroom line: How to best describe the show? Part circus, part theater, part sculpture? It’s all that and totally kid friendly.
Make sure you catch this feast for the senses before it ends on Sunday, June 12.
The bottom line
Most SCT performances are geared towards elementary-aged kids, so I typically reserve them as one-on-one outings with my 6-year-old. Based on the whimsical description for the show called “Air Play,” I impulsively added last-minute tickets for the rest of the family, including my 3-year-old and his grandma. I kept my fingers crossed that the play would suit all generations.
With minimal words, physical comedy and brightly colored visual effects, the show turned out to be an all-ages crowd-pleaser!
What do you get when you combine a former ballerina who studied Shakespeare at Princeton with a graduate of multiple clown schools? The Acrobuffos! Performers Christina Gelsone and Seth Bloom are a married couple who have taken the stage together in over 25 countries. They bring the best of their international performing experience to "Air Play," which they designed together with sculptor Daniel Wurtzel.
The opening curtain reveals a long piece of iridescent fabric swirling in a vortex created by multiple fans. In shows like these, watching the audience is almost as fun as observing the performers. Faces young and old wore expressions of awe as Gelsone and Bloom layered on another length of fabric and sent both soaring like kites over the audience. Dozens of tiny hands stretched up to grasp the fabric (over 200 feet of fabric are used in the show), but like true magicians, the performers somehow managed to keep it just out of reach.
You don’t need to be a native English speaker to understand the silly facial expressions and body movements the performers use to interact. My 6-year-old giggled as Gelsone effortlessly juggled weighted yellow balloons while a frustrated Bloom’s red balloons kept flying away. He unsuccessfully enlisted help from an audience member and it became a running joke as he “blamed” her for every subsequent mishap.
While both of my kids laughed throughout the performance, I hope the artistic components snuck in subliminally. A primary palette of red (his) and yellow (hers) permeates the set, making it both eye-catching and simple for young viewers as they follow the action.
The soundtrack offered classical music that child listeners might not ordinarily hear. During one especially striking scene, “Jupiter” (from Gustav Holst’s The Planets) plays as a moon-like yellow balloon orbits a giant red one and glittery confetti swirls around like stardust.
Parents should know
Perhaps clown school should be a prerequisite for parenthood. When two eager young patrons wandered from their seats in search of a balloon floating through the audience, Gelsone didn’t skip a beat. She wordlessly made it part of her act and sent them back to their seats with a gesture. Brava!
Oh, and did I mention the stage manager is a masterful multi-tasker? She seamlessly orchestrated some 250 cues for lights, sound and fans — making my weekday morning school routine look like child’s play.
With a run time of 55 minutes, this show was at the edge of my 3-year-old’s attention span, but it’s SCT so a little wiggling is tolerated, and there’s always the quiet room at the back.
I know the show made an impression, though, because my kids have already used a fan, a scarf and a few renegade birthday balloons to stage their own production. I plan on making this a regular part of our rainy-day routine — complete with classical music playing in the background!
If you go…
When: “Air Play” runs through June 12, 2022.
Where: Seattle Children’s Theatre is located at 201 Thomas St., Seattle, on the west side of Seattle Center. This show plays in SCT’s main Charlotte Martin Theatre
Tickets: $20–$45; buy tickets online for best availability. Prior to the pandemic, SCT introduced pricing tiers. Patrons can select their preferred ticket price, subject to availability. The tiers are premium ($40 child, $45 adult), standard ($30 child, $35 adult) and value ($20 child, $25 adult). Select “value” from the dropdown menu on the ticket page to find the cheaper tickets. There are a limited number available for each performance.
Accessibility: SCT offers an ASL-interpreted show (Saturday, June 11) and a sensory-friendly show (Sunday, June 12). Wheelchair and companion seating are available upon request.
Age recommendation: SCT recommends this show for ages 5 and older. Our family has attended all of this season’s shows and I think this was the most suitable for younger siblings (there were even some sleeping babies).
Run time: 55 minutes with no intermission.
Show resources: SCT’s audience guide shares fun facts about the show and ideas for activities and experiments at home.
Safety protocols: SCT requires masks for everyone ages 2 and older, as well as proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for everyone ages 5 and older. Read more details online.