If you've ever experienced the artistry and wonder of a Cirque du Soleil performance, you are in no way prepared for the mindfuck that is Spiegelworld.

Alternately astounding, hilarious and truly fucking bizarre, the Spiegelworld cast will push you to the absolute limit of what you're comfortable with—and well fucking beyond. And yes, all of those "fucks" are necessary in this case. If that makes you uncomfortable, walk away now and don't look back. If you are, however, the kind of sick fucker who enjoys balls in your face, chewed-up banana in your mouth and other forms of depravity paraded as entertainment, you're in for a treat.

Empire, photo by Andrea Feehan
Empire, photo by Andrea Feehan

The performance really begins well before showtime, when the performers wander through the crowd catching projectiles in their pants, taking photos with patrons' faces pressed to their asses and softening the thresholds of humiliation before things get really vulgar. This is all possible—and effective—thanks to the intimate venue. The New York City-based Spiegelworld started in a century-old Belgian Spiegeltent with nooks, stained glass and a tiny center stage. Now travelling internationally, the spacious touring tent seats the audience mere feet from the small, circular stage. People sitting in the front row are warned at the beginning that they're fucked. Most were good sports at an opening weekend show, like the guy named Brian who put up with being sexually assaulted by another man onstage.

In such a small performance space the acrobatics and contortion acts become jaw-droppingly real, with every quivering muscle, hyper-extended rib cage and sweat-slicked pectoral on full display. It's every bit as erotic as it sounds, with plenty of eye candy for all persuasions. And though the production may read like a low-budget Cirque, its performers are undeniably world-class, with Olympic-caliber gymnasts and vocalist Tessa Alves (aka Miss Purple), who could easily headline on her own. Comedy duo Jonathan Taylor and Anne Goldmann play the hosts and keep things moving with comedic skits, nudity and that spontaneous sexual assault.

Empire will leave you titillated, amazed and horrified beyond all reason—in the best possible way. It might be good to step out of your comfort zone. Or rather, get shoved out of it by a man in a dress draping his balls on your leg.

see it: Empire is at the Rose Quarter Benton Lot, 542 N Broadway, 800-745-3000. 7 pm Tuesday-Sunday and 9 pm Friday-Saturday, through Jan. 6. $25-$99.

Spiegelworld’s EMPIRE
Spiegelworld’s EMPIRE