No child in its right mind would run away to join the circus described in Sarah Hammond's Circus Tracks—a circus that "got its heart broke twice," according to Leelio (Megan Ahiers), a sideshow freak whose body is covered with handprints allegedly left by God. Hammond's script is filled with the kind of fabulism that ambitious theater groups love to tackle. Dried-up lake beds are surrounded by tall walls of water, fish eat depressed clowns' hearts while swimming in the sand, and a heartbroken, semicompetent trapeze artist tells the same story over and over again (Colin Connors, twisted with grief).
The water takes the form of two large sheets of gauzy red netting. The play's many musical instruments and costumes are picked from mounds of thrift-store finds at the edge of the stage. A transgender cavewoman dances, and instruments as varied as xylophone, banjo, and accordion contribute to a soundtrack that feels almost improvised by the entire cast.
There's a story somewhere in these piles of secondhand treasure. Christine Longe plays Dewey, a girl abandoned by her clown-mother 13 years ago, who is trying to find her way back to the circus. Jason Harber has a difficult job as Maximillion—a clichéd evil circus overlord who steals his freaks' talents and keeps them in a magical box—and he comports himself with lazy style. It's certainly not the actors' faults that the play abandons them in the middle of a watery apocalypse that seems less a fairy-tale ending than an out-of-place Bible lesson. Despite the script's vagaries, the hardworking actors collect the various threads of theme and character into something very close to a satisfying—if tragic—ending.