There were no oohs and ahs, no gasps, no children pointing and little laughter at Sunday afternoon’s performance of venerable Cirque du Soleil. Though the audience clapped in time when commanded and two adult volunteers gamely allowed themselves to be made fun of, excitement was at low ebb for a high concept, otherwise pedestrian version of Cirque. With six shows in Las Vegas and 11 on the road, this one’s looking pretty thin.
Fool Koller (a clown) is dropped into “a land of memories” -we’re to know this how?- and appears intermittently throughout the show, often occupying the audience as lengthy set-ups occur. He wears no make-up, an uninteresting costume, and mimes without appeal.
None of the acts are innovative. We have hoop diving-enhanced by treadmills (a troop somersaults through hoops), a basic “Adagio” (partner dance), two cyr wheels (8’ rings in which women spin and twirl), hand balancing, a football (soccer) demonstration (Pele was better), acrobats on low trapezes, acrobatics on an aerial strap (drenched and dipping into a pond), juggling (and dropping) short batons.
Highlights: A low key, low tightrope dance captivates. Swing to Swing with jettisoned performers flying between extra long swings, is skilled and originally configured. “Masts and Poles” spotlights seven strong, agile practitioners who pose, flip, wrap, circle, and drop suspended from by hands, arms, knees, or feet. Contortionist Alksei Goloborodko is the best I’ve seen. Seemingly boneless, the young man is lithe, graceful, and imaginative.
Set Designer Eugenio Caballero chooses a minimalist take with a “neutral stage… variation on the black box concept.” Visuals feature an attractively lit giant disc “symbol of grandeur of Mexican architecture” and a “paper picado curtain” like the country’s iconic cut-out lanterns – best seen when down between performance. A few giant, hand held leaves and some skinny trees comprise the rest of the set, each during one act. That’s it.
Copious amounts of water rains on performers to no perceptible end. Granted, one cloudburst astonishingly features wet shapes – butterflies, flowers, foliage – cascading from above, but otherwise wet is wet. One sympathizes with thespians. Presenting Luzia in the round with the addition of a turntable stage and treadmills provides fluidity and sightline.
Wonderful, oversized stallion and jaguar puppets (inhabited by performers) might just as well be on display for lack of participation. There’s a great deal of walking and standing around in this show. The company seems to deflate watching its peers. Energy flags. No perceptible choreography or organization is apparent when someone is not in a spotlight.
Costumes by Giovanna Buzzi consist of headpieces which are well crafted, but have little effect from a distance and performer outfits mostly in print-patterned white creating an uncolorful stage. That this represents a geography known for vibrancy seems to be a contradiction. Birds are winning, though not dynamic.
Mexican vocalist Majo Cornejo is splendid, but very underused. Highlighted musicians are also fine, especially Felipe Saray, but music is generic.
All in all, underwhelming.
Photos by Matt Beard
Opening: Contortionist Aleksei Goloborodko
Cirque du Soleil Luzia: : A Waking Dream of Mexico
Director/Writer by Daniele Finzi Pasca
Writer-Julie Hamelin Finzi
Through June 9, 2019
Under the big top adjacent to Citi Field