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San Francisco Fringe 2015

La Alquimista: A Circus-Theater Fable

The Crescent Moon Theater Collective

Genre: Circus, Site-Specific, Theatre

Venue: Exit Theatre


Low Down

A modern mythical story about a girl called Isabella based on Paulo Coetho’s ‘The Alchemist’ who follows her dreams and meets challenges. Told through music, movement and circus it’s a charming site-specific theatre piece set in the newly opened Tenderloin National Forest (located in the enchanting Cohen Alley) – full of plants, trees, mosaics and huge murals.




La Alquimista is a modern story about a girl called Isabella, from a caring family, who grows up and becomes influenced by the bad stuff in life, while trying to follow her dreams. It’s told in an abstract style with minimal words, gibberish, music and movement directed by Polina Smith. Produced by Crescent Moon Theater Productions, this is a company that creates original thought provoking work integrating dance, circus, music and theatre.

Alquimista is a charming site-specific theatre piece set in the newly opened gorgeous Tenderloin National Forest, located in the enchanting Cohen Alley. Located right in the centre of San Francisco in the very busy Tenderloin district, it’s a beautiful oasis between two tall buildings – full of plants, trees, mosaics and huge murals. Fragrant herbs, such as Rosemary surround the stage area, so it’s a perfect location for this mythical show, inspired by Paulo Coetho’s ‘The Alchemist’. The audience sits around the small performance space so it’s an intimate theatre that heightens the experience.

The performers of the eight strong cast are all compelling and good at what they do. The Musician, Ben Goldstein wearing a top hat with streaming ribbons, is outstanding and responsible for a substantial amount of the flow, mood and storytelling. He plays several instruments (accordion, drum, flute) and the musical selections add a multi-sensory side to the performance. Cohen Alley is a long narrow space and the sound of the accordion in the distance, coming closer as the show starts provides an interesting perspective to this special place.

The relatively large cast is strong , each brings different characters and skills and is well cast. Michael Curran’s Demon is an impish acrobatic contortionist with wide-eyed expressions and Sammay Dizon is an ethereal Dancing Spirit, who inspires and comforts Isabella, played by dancer Arianna Keever. Samsara Shmee is a compelling physical actor playing the Dad, an interesting Office Worker, as well as the Narrator. Serena Malkani plays The Alchemist, Alison Sacha Ross plays one of the Office Workers speaking gibberish, and the Mother, and Alexander Jones plays a Dancing Spirit. The interesting costumes are a visual feast; Each character wears different textured fabrics such as a black velvet jacket, a dark green silk flowing gown, a long embroidered skirt with silver sequins, a white hip unmatched skirt and shirt outfit – the demon’s red painted flesh and torn gossamer is especially effective.

La Alquimista shows run during the daytime and evenings – while I enjoyed a sunny afternoon show, the evening performances must be wonderful, lit up with strings of small lights criss crossing the space.

It’s a 30 minute show – short and sweet, offering a magical entertainment for all ages in its urban woodsy setting – and this National Forest is well worth seeking out!