The children chased a line of balloons the young clown wafted behind him.
Red, white, red, white, the balloons alternated down the chain. The children laughed and shrieked and tried to hold on as the young man in greasepaint ran them through the crowd.
The sun started its slow descent over the boathouse to the west, glistening and glimmering off the lagoon where happy fishermen plied their futile hobby. The spot of grass by house and water was filled with smiling families, laughing children and the sounds of a small live band playing a light and smooth 1920s Puerto Rican jazz.
“Is this that clown thing they were talking about?” came a voice from behind me.
The voice was a female one, withering in that way only 12 year olds can muster.
From earlier context, I knew she came with her family – a young brother who slightly got what was going on, a father too tired to fight and a mother who, by gum, was going to have a fun family evening even if no one liked it.
The girl and her dad stayed in the shady spot by the bike path as the mother forced the son to get a better seat in the crowd.
“Huhhhhhhhh,” the girl sighed as she looked on the scene. “My eyes hurt. This is weird.”
The show was SOS: A Summer Clown Cruise, a collaboration between Chicago’s Theater Oobleck and El Circo Nacional de Puerto Rico.
Set on a cruise ship left adrift for 39 days (see the Carnival Triumph incident of 2013) and abandoned by a coward captain (see the Costa Concordia incident of 2012), the bilingual show portrayed a group of ship employees and clowns trying to keep it all together for the audience.
Soon we would see the juggling and tender, delightful acrobatics. Soon we would hear Stan the sailor roar about not going through the red door and see a bizarre and wonderful election turned dance party.
But now, the clowns were laughing, dancing and chasing children through a beautiful, sunny park to the vintage jazz sounds of La Banda Municipal du Freedonia.
“It sounds like a Jewish wedding,” the voice behind me said.
I moved to a different area of the audience.
The show, by the way, was beautiful.
Oobleck’s English-language pieces were funny and rousing (so, I gathered from context, were Circo Nacional’s Spanish jokes). Stan screamed and tumbled. Circo Nacional’s acrobatics were exciting, with that extra level of talent clowns add to make it look like they were alllllllways just about to tumble into the audience.
There was nervous cruise director Julie and a hilariously bloodthirsty children’s theater troupe (real kids, of course). The families laughed and smiled and children ran and danced excitedly through the crowd. I decided to sneak out during a juggling act.
As I made my way out, I passed back by the sarcastic child and her father. Snack from a cart in hand, she was now watching silently as the clowns flung pins and those plastic hourglass-looking things you flip from a string through the air.
There was a look on her face that maybe just might possibly potentially hypothetically be, if you look at it in the right light, the beginnings of a small smile.