The Cat's Pajamas

Join Gregory Popovich and his friendly felines for a circus you'll never forget

Gregory Popovich's Comedy Pet Theatre

Center of Creative Arts (524 Trinity Avenue, University City

Gregory Popovich's Comedy Pet Theatre performs at the Center of Creative Arts (524 Trinity Avenue, University City; 314-725-6555 or www.cocastl.org) at 7 p.m. Friday and at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday (October 7 through 9). Tickets are $14 to $17 and are available through MetroTix (314-534-1111 or www.metrotix.com).

As an animal aficionado, Mr. Night has seen things that would shock pretenders such as Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin or Jeff "Too Vanilla for a Nickname" Corwin. He's seen a cat trip over its own feet. He witnessed a squirrel spurn a field of acorns, opting instead for a tiny peanut-butter sandwich. And he's even watched a cheetah step from behind a tree with an entirely new set of spots.

But none of these once-in-a-lifetime wonders prepared Mr. Night for the magic and mystery of Gregory Popovich's Comedy Pet Theatre. Popovich, the son of Moscow Circus performers and himself a veteran of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey shows, is an amazing performer in his own right. Working in the old-world style of clowning, Popovich tells wordless stories with his body, acting out scenes and performing dazzling feats of juggling, balancing and physical comedy. He is an exceptionally talented man, and yet he willingly steps back from the spotlight in every show so that the audience may thrill to the feats of the real stars: housecats and dogs (and several rats, plus a few mice).

Popovich's critters (all rescued from shelters) take mighty leaps, perform choreographed routines and even ride a train. Is there as much risk as working with big cats? No, but as anyone who has ever owned a cat can attest, even having a feline pay attention to a command is a rare occurrence; seeing cats share a stage with dogs and rats (and leap from a platform to Popovich's arms without once trying to kill either rat or dog) is something unbelievable. Seeing Popovich nuzzle Kitty after such a stunt -- well, that's less amazing and more heartwarming.

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