Review: Cirque du Soleil "Kurios"

Jan. 16, 2016 | By Bruce R. Feldman

Cirque du Soleil "Kurios," Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, Jan. 13, 2016

Southern California is this kind of place for arts lovers: You drive for nearly two hours from the West Side to downtown or Hollywood to attend a play or concert. It’s not an enjoyable start to an evening’s entertainment, especially if the performance itself takes less time than the commute, as the symphony typically does.

This was our frame of mind when we set out at rush hour for Dodger Stadium two nights ago to see Cirque du Soleil. Traffic was miserable, as expected. We were feeling pretty crunchy when we finally arrived an hour and three-quarters later. We cheered up a bit as the troupe’s signature blue-and-yellow-striped big top came into view.

Cirque du Soleil calls its new show Kurios (or Cabinet of Curiosities) to suggest a night of quaint marvels and wonders. What it delivers is something more. Charm and whimsy abound, but so do comedy, music, and, memorably, exhilarating acrobatics.

The creative team behind the show weaves everything into a fluid, diverting spectacle that will have you grinning from ear to ear for its two and one-half hour length. For Cirque fans, it once again proves to be a winning combination.

The show is set in a steampunk world, at the same time retro and futuristic, a fanciful place filled with visually stunning sets and oddball characters wearing outlandish costumes. Their underlying message: Don’t be a cynic! Use your imagination! Let us astonish you!

The evening begins gently enough with the Cirque’s version of circus parade. No elephants, calliopes., or fire eaters. Instead there’s a motley group of train passengers: eccentrics, acrobats, a juggler, percussionists and dancers. For an opening number it’s fun if oddly understated.

"Charm and whimsy abound, but so do comedy, music, and, memorably, exhilarating acrobatics."

The pace picks up when two acrobats, dressed as mechanical dolls, take to the air. They’re high above us. Surprise! The trapeze turns out be a human one. The catcher flings his partner into the air where she performs more and more elaborate somersaults. He catches her and swings her back into the air for her next trick. There’s no net! It’s clever and also thrilling.

Eleven more acts follow. Four wonderfully pliant contortionists execute graceful pyramids, twisting their bodies into unimaginable poses. A chair-balancing act finds its double mirrored 50 feet above hanging upside down from the top of the tent. The two teams build their way up or down until they meet mid air. We haven’t seen that before.

Photo: Carol Siegle

A group of 13 artists perform daring synchronized acrobatics, standing three or four high on each other’s shoulders. A pair of “Siamese Twins” crisscrosses on swinging ropes high above, performing closely synchronized figures at high speed.

Another act takes place not over a net, but on one. Underwater creatures pirouette, bounce and rebound on an elevated net that covers the entire stage. Their street-style performance is mixed with pure trampoline techniques. The net is tuned so that the artists standing on the surface can use their legs to modulate the amplitude of the bouncing motion, at times creating a slingshot effect that propels their teammates almost to the top of the tent.

Not all of the acts are intended to stop your heart; some bits offer a different sort of pleasure. In the imaginative “Invisible Circus” a kooky ringmaster directs a miniature troupe of unseen artists. Ranging from teeterboard to high diving to riding a unicycle on a tightrope, the acts all materialize in our minds by the sheer power of visual and sound effects. It’s hilarious.

By the finale, we had completely succumbed to the show’s invention and spirit. We were glad we drove the long distance on a cold night. If you go to Kurios, it’s likely you will feel the same way.

Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios is at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles until February 7. It then plays Atlanta, Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.

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