Under the magic of its yellow-and-blue striped tent, Cirque du Soleil has brought what may be its most rare and delightful show to date. Kurios reminds us that little and “oldie” can be exquisite, and it’s all delivered in the capital of bling, Tysons Corner, now billed as “America’s next great city.” (Not.)
Cirque du Soleil creators have discovered what all the developers of this suburban dystopia – and for that matter the blustering bombast of America’s current political show — have not, that scale is everything. The director/writer of this production, Michel Laprise, himself a product of Cirque du Soleil, wants us to preserve and celebrate the delights of human scale. The show is like looking into the insides of a watch or through the wrong end of a telescope. The stage represents a fantastical world, littered with bell jars, manual typewriters, and phonograph horns, all lit up with the yellow misty look of gaslight. It is indeed a “cabinet of curiosities,” all about wonder and the richness of man’s imagination.
As we wait ringside, clutching our “goodie-bags” of popcorn and canned sodas, we watch an early aviator, a kind of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry figure, sail paper planes out into the audience. It’s an invitation for all of us to become children again and enter this glowing nostalgic but far from static world. It’s a world bustling with dreams and possibilities, a Jules Verne alternate future.
It all begins with the simulation of a puffing locomotive pulling into a station, with mustachioed men and graceful hourglass-fashioned women disembarking. There are jugglers, percussionists, dancers, an inventor-scientific “Searcher,” and other winsomely attractive if eccentric beings bursting into the dawn of a new century. Theirs is an energetic song-and-dance number that draws everyone in.
Stéphane Roy has designed the amazing set, and Philippe Guillotel has created a host of inventive costumes that includes a man whose girth seems to be enhanced by a bathysphere in which lives a tiny woman, an accordion-pleated man, a hoop-and-antennae lady with clickety-clack heels, a mentalist whose huge egg-shaped dome of a head glows with moving gears, and a set of the quirkiest and most adorable leather-and-metal robots anyone would ever want to see.
If you’ve come for the acrobats and other circus acts, they come aplenty with the highest, most gaspable acts.
A trunk opens up revealing two people in frozen tableau, a turn of last century’s circus figures that look like cut-outs or a music box duo. She is a tiny ballerina and he an impressive strongman. Trunk becomes a soft mattress platform, and they begin a human trapeze act, where clouds of resin reapplied constantly remind us how dangerous their collaboration is, and one drop of sweat could fling our ballerina to her death.
There are the young Asian contortionists, always a favorite, but these defy the anatomical integrity of the human skeleton. Dressed in neon body suits with rippling fringy-bits, they seem like a pile of eels or even a fantastic single cephalopod.
Our fearless aviator returns to balance on top of cylinders and balls atop his most original winged plane that rises into the air mid-act. Then there’s a man who balances on top of chairs. The act is so fantastic that I won’t give it away, but let me give you a hint. Look up.
It’s hard to choose a favorite in all of these, but my heart leapt up truly as a team of men, some dressed with fish tails, bounded up and down on a special acro net – and so high I am surprised they didn’t need oxygen. I know I did. The secret I read was the team works so together to hold the tension in the net for each to take a turn that it accentuates the trampoline effect. Whatever, it sure looked fun.
Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosity
closes September 18, 2016
Details and tickets
The other most delicious moments of the evening showed us a close–to-home magic. A bicycle aerialist, looking like the girl next door, made me dream about flying on a bicycle. It seemed so impossible what she was doing … And yet…one can dream.
Drawing on the early world of circuses and traveling fairs, where there were what were then called freaks, Cirque du Soleil transforms such “curiosities” into beings of elegance and great beauty. Two men, conjoined in the first act as Siamese twins, stripped down to rippling muscle with nothing much left to the imagination but all to enjoy, were emancipated from each other to lift off, circle and fly around each other suspended on ropes.
Mini Lili is not three feet tall, but every time she enters the stage she embodies a sassy and star quality of Mae West. Everything miniature is in perfect proportion, and she takes up residence in the doll-sized quarters inside the bathysphere belly of the big honcho of the evening.
The two most delicious and funny moments were also “small” and child-friendly in scale. One is an act starring fingers, projected on a giant balloon as screen. Hard to describe, it’s like a kids’ game with finger puppets, perfectly silly. By the time the fingers land on the head of an unsuspecting bald man in the audience, the audience is howling with laughter.
The other moment, featuring a clown on an unlikely date, also involves audience participation. When our little fellow brings a tall willowy and most proper woman onto the stage, he acts out a scene where he invites her into his apartment. The following seduction, includes him trying to woo her as a parrot or cockatoo and then becomes a cat. The cat does everything to her and in front of her. Anyone who has ever witnessed a cat coughing up a fur ball or using a litterbox will know what I mean.
If you think you know Cirque du Soleil, you simply can’t miss the joy and liberation of imagination Kurios offers. In a world where the image of “global citizens” has been given a bad rap, it’s nice to know these guys can show us how it’s done. And it sure looks like a lot of fun. Get down to the tent.
Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosity . Written and directed by Michel LaPrise. Creative Direction by Chantal Tremblay. Composed by Rap[hael Beau, Bob and Bill. Set Designed by Stephane Roy. Lighting Design by Marin LaBrecque. Choreography by Yaman Okur, Ben Potvin, Susan Gaudreau, and Andrea Ziegler. Choreography by Sidi Larbi Chekaoui. Acrobatics by Bob Bollinger, Germain Guillemit and Boris Verkhovsky.Produced by Cirque du Soleil. Reviewed by Susan Galbraith.