Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cirque du Soleil

Did you know, friends, that this past Sunday we, us four, went to see Cirque du Soleil downtown at the Wolstein Center? The group currently has seven or eight troupes touring the continent, plus one stationary troupe -- perhaps in Quebec, the progenitor? Or maybe in New York, the Big Apple?

This particular show was called Alegría. Wikipedia says it has a darker story and feel to it compared to their dozen or so other shows. *shrugs* It met my expectations: essentially, it's an on-stage circus with each act occupying the stage for some minutes before morphing into the next act, all tied together by a very loose story.

There were acrobats of all sorts: synchronized trampolinists, a trapezist, a similar act but with a pair of stretchy ropes instead of the trapeze, a "giant ring" performance, and -- my favorite -- the balance beam act, though these "balance beams" were really long beams of flexible material, each held on the shoulders by two supporting characters.

These acrobats were all lithe, androgynous, potentially erotic -- though this is a family friendly show -- leaping about the stage in skin-tight white jumpsuits, with equally white skullcaps and make up. The balance beams and the trampolines made quite a spectacle: dozens of these same-looking, remarkably flexible creatures, twirling in the air from one slim white beam to the other, or else bouncing in perfect synchronization on the trampolines, often barely missing one another.

There were other acts, including the requisite dancing (mainly between acts), and (god-awful) singing. There was a juggler, a pair of fire dancers (hoo boy, watch them twirl), as well as a pair of contortionists (hoo boy, watch them twist and bend about one another, while miraculously forming no position that is undeniably sexual).

But now we come to the crowning jewel, or, as Mom put it, "I liked the clowns." They were just two, dressed in typical clowning clothes whose act(s) consisted only of pantomime -- physical comedy and prop comedy, of course -- with much fast-spoken gibberish and the occasional phrase ("I still love you," I think I heard after a particular paper airplane was crushed under heel). In turn their crowning jewel came just after the aforementioned balance beam act: the two fools ran out on stage with their own white beam and proceeded to parody the previous act. After hurling a few invisible, imaginary acrobats to their deaths the fools went into the crowd, coming back with a man to whom they planned the same fate. It all worked out -- hilariously. This man was remarkably good natured, even graciously accepting some cream in the face after his proverbial fifteen minutes.[n1] I wonder if he was a plant -- or does Cirque du Soleil so trust their audience and sneer at litigation?

These were the comedy relief, the giant paper airplane between the oh-so-serious leotards. But they were more: they were accessible, familiar and consequently the most important part of the show. Those young, fit acrobats, [n2] performing before a crowd of the simply average, can come to be seen with milky, glassy, even lusty jealous eyes. If we are not repelled from them we are drawn to them, to the idea of flying and doing the unimaginable at least twice each day. But such is the stuff of unfulfilled dreams. Comedy, as always, is there, immediate and open to all. You must be stupid or drunk with pain to never laugh at anything.

The show featured other characters, in the same vein: a group of parading musicians, lead by a hunchback with a cane and a red coat[n3]; a small miscellany of females with pointy noses, bulbous middles, large curly wigs, and a unique fashion sense; and a queen of sorts, a woman in a white dress and hat -- did she have a wand? -- whose singing may haunt my dreams for weeks. The only memorable, worthwhile song was the theme (of sorts), performed by the wandering band and consisting primarily of a few catchy bars, repeated again and again.

It was not "the greatest show on Earth" -- but we all enjoyed ourselves. Particularly pleasing was the price: $0.00, courtesy of Dad's "work connections" (see Note 1). They were good seats, too: the center of Row K, first level. Our usual loge accommodations were unavailable -- the boxes for some reason were closed for that performance. O Fie! Let them eat cake and all that... Still, the prices were astounding: 58 bucks each for our seats, reaching to the mid-70s for some of the floor seats. We all agreed: it was fun but not $232-fun. We are glad for Dad's connections.

We have managed to see, on the cheap, American Idol[n4], Manheim Steamroller, the Rockettes, Twelfth Night, and now Cirque Du Soleil. We are establishing quite the Yuppie credentials. Oh, what's next -- Lawrence Welk?

Note 1: I gave it some thought: is there any nonsexual way to describe getting cream in the face? And a side note: did Andy Warhol really spawn a proverb? Really?
Note 2: at the end of the show, during the applause, many performers removed their caps, revealing a shocking variety of shape, color, creed, and --yes-- gender. In my defense, illusions, if they are believed, can be as real and dangerous as reality.
Note 3: the hunchback was the favorite character of Hannah and Dad. I was a bit cool -- as usual.
Note 4: I skipped all American Idol performances, thank you very much.

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