For many of us, the circus seems like an antiquated institution from bygone days. Today, when I think of the circus I think of the brilliant Cirque du Soleil. But, as I learned in the documentary, the Circus Dynasty, the vegas-y Barnum & Bailey Circus is still, apparently, “the greatest show on earth.” And in Europe two circus family dynasties reign.
The Berdinos are renowned directors of a legendary family circus. And the Cassellys are a gorgeous charismatic family of artists and performers–most awarded in Europe–creating death-defying acts for generations. The two families have worked together, created together, and lived together as friends for over 20 years.
As in Hollywood, gorgeous young stars sell, and that is no different for Patrick Berdino and Merrylu Casselly. Both of their parents would like to market the young lovebirds as the European circus’s “first couple.” Merrylu and Patrick do present a special love story: born two months apart; raised together in campers throughout Europe; once youthful antagonists, now lovers. And the hopes of both the Cassellys and the Berdinos rests in the possibility that their talented children will solidify the two dynasties via marriage, becoming powerful and sexy figureheads for the brand.
On stage the pair are electrifying, in sync, and exceptionally dynamic. Behind the curtains they’re adoring sweethearts. But as pressure to up the ante of each performance (and take their relationship to new levels) continues to mount, the 21-year-olds begin to break.
To be frank, the use of animals in circus performances is something I am strongly against, which is why I’ve chosen to see incredible artist like Patrick and Marylu perform in animal-free shows like Cirque du Soleil (where animals are not forced to perform). But, I will say that it appears that the beautiful elephants and horses – cared for by Rene and Marylu — are healthy, treated well, and loved.
What I do admire is the fearless athleticism that is required in the circus world: it’s breathtaking and a gift for those of us who witness it. An unforgettable example occurs when Marylu is kicked by her horse. In great pain, and just hours later, she goes on to perform some of the most terrifying acts I’ve ever seen (literally pushing through the pain). Adrenaline? Training? Indoctrinated into a business that insists that the show must go on? It’s all of the above, married with sheer talent: Marylu represents athletes of the highest order.
Ultimately, the pressure on Merrylu and Patrick — heirs to grand legacies and lovers — is great. Can it withstand the weight? Check out the this Winehouse must see to find out.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chaka V. is a writer, journalist and the founder of The Winehouse Mag.
Isabel Bader Theatre – Fri, May 1 4:00 PM