Friday, May 27, 2016

Curious About The New Cirque du Soleil Show At Suffolk Downs? "Kurios" Is Sheer Delight From Beginning To End

Cirque du Soleil's "Kurios - Cabinet of Curiosities" opened last evening at Suffolk Downs.  The inaugural audience was enthusiastic in its appreciation of this evening of visual splendor, bringing back the cast for three curtain calls. The show is written and masterfully directed by Michel Laprise. The show is presented in a steampunk genre ("Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology "and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.")

During the Renaissance - back before museums came into existence,aristocrats, wealthy merchants and world travelers would collect items of interest and display them to their neighbors in Cabinets of Curiosities.  This is the concept behind the current show, "Kurios." Each act represents something that the Seeker (Eligiusz Skoczylas) has imagined can be found in his own personal Cabinet of Curiosities.
The evening was a wonderful balance of feats of incredible agility, physicality, athleticism and grace displayed on a large and swooping scale on the one extreme.  On the other extreme, there were components of the show that were delicate and small in scale, that required a different kind of attention to be paid by the audience.  The interspersing of these two kinds of elements kept the flow of the evening moving in a very pleasing way, helped enormously by the live orchestra led by Marc Sohier playing music composed by Raphael Beau and a duo who call themselves Bob & Bill. Bruno Darmagnac is the Artistic Director of this production.

Each act is worthy of mention:
  • Chaos Synchro 1900 - a steam locomotive more than 60 feel in length pulls onto the stage and disgorges a motley crew of passengers straight out of the 19th century - eccentric characters, a juggler, percussionists and dancers. This fast-paced number sets the frenetic tone for the action to follow. Juggling by Gabriel Beaudoin was particularly noteworthy.
  • Russian Cradle Duo - In this remarkable piece, a strongman and a porcelain faced doll (Roman and Olena Tereshchenko) perform stunning trapeze moves.  He is both the human trapeze and the catcher, operating atop a structure that rises 13 feet above the stage. She performs increasingly complex and challenging somersaults and twists.
  • Aerial Bicycle - French artist Anne Weissbecker performs a series of complex moves high above the crowd using various elements of the bicycle as her platform.
  • Invisible Circus - In this inventive piece, the Ringmaster leads invisible performers through a variety of tricks, inviting the audience to suspend disbelief and "see" performers on the moving teeter board and high wire while hearing the roar of the hungry lion.
  • Contortion - Four young women from Siberia have trained most of their lives to prepare them to create wriggling configurations reminiscent of electric eels.  They are Ayagma Tsybeova, Imin Tsydendambaeva, Lilia Zhambalova and Bayarma Zodboeva. They perform their feats of magic atop the large mechanical hand.
  • Upside Down Diner - This act is one of the most inventive and original. Andrii Bondarenko plays the role of a dinner guest, who decides to climb to the top of the dining salon to chase down a chandelier that has levitated.  He stacks dining room chairs one upon the other to build a stairway to heaven, and performs astonishing feats of hand balancing in the process.  All of a sudden, the Diner and the audience become aware that on the ceiling, there is a mirror image of their original tableau, hanging upside down.  Yet this is not a mere reflection, but action table, chairs, dinner setting and diners all suspended upside down! The Diner's mirror counterpart stacks chairs going down, and they meet in the middle at the chandelier.  It is a mind blowing feat of engineering and balancing on the part of the performers, and a wonderful philosophical comment on the nature of reality and our perception of reality.  This was one of my favorite acts in the show.
  • Rola Bola - Aviator James Eulises Gonzalez ascends to the top of the Big Top - Le Chapiteau - balancing himself on a dizzying array of cylinders and planks.  He is one of only a handful of acrobats in the world who can perform this dangerous feat.
  • Acronet - The second half of the show kicked off with a huge trampoline on steroids. Using street style trampoline maneuvers, including moves that jet propel the acrobats to the top of the tent, they performers act our scene that take place above and below the sea.
  • Comic Act - This is one of the acts in which the scale is reduced.  The audience is focused on a woman who has been picked from among the patrons to sit on a sofa to be romanced by Facundo Gimenez.  His attempts at wooing the young lady are hampered by a parrot, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and a cat. The actor portrays all three creatures with panache  His shenanigans as the cat in a litter box had me rolling with laughter.
  • Aerial Straps - Throughout the show, brothers Roman and Vitali Tomanov have portrayed Siamese twins. They mount into the air hanging from straps, executing complex moves - sometimes joined and sometimes flying separately. This act was impressive for the strength and grace of these artists, as well as for their clear connection of trust and communication with each other.  The act was another highlight of the evening for me.
Roman and Vitali Tomanov
Cirque du Soleil - Kurios
At Suffolk Downs
Through July 10th
  • Yo-Yos is another small scale act in which Chih-Min Tuan demonstrates mastery over yo-yos that transform into pocket watches.
  • Another act on a micro-scale is the Theater of Hands, projecting images of a hand onto a screen made of a hot air balloon that descended from on high. The hand is made to dance as if it were human legs, and the act ends up in the audience, involving a complicit and good natured gentleman who went along with the fun.
  • Banguine is an act that feature 13 artists.  The aperture is opened wide here, for the act takes place all over the stage and spills into the aisles.  A series of synchronized acrobatic moves results in pyramids as high as four people, and a sequence in which it seems as if the women in the group are walking on air.  It is magical to watch.
  • Finale - The entire company returns to remind us of the wonders they pulled out of the Cabinet of Curiosities.
Throughout the show, several characters wove themselves in and out of the acts and the narratives.
  • Karl L'Ecuyer is Microcosmos, the leader of the group.
  • Inside of him is Mini Lilli, representing his subconscious.  She is played elegantly by Antanina Satsura, one of the ten smallest women in the world at 3 feet and 2 inches.
Antanina Satsura as Mini Lilli
Cirque du Soleil - Kurios
At Suffolk Downs
Through July 10th
  • Ekaterina Pirogvskaya is Klara who can receive radio waves through her hoop skirt.
  • Nico Baixas is Accordion Man.
I was accompanied at this performance by a friend who had never before attended a circus.  This person was thoroughly mesmerized from beginning to end.  I also noticed several sections over from where I was sitting a very sophisticated and discerning theater professional. She was glowing with delight at several points along the way.  I think it is fair to say that this show is equally fitting for first time Cirque patrons as well as for knowledgeable theater people who know how to enjoy a brilliantly crafted and executed performance and work of art.

Don't wait long to get your tickets to this program that will run in Boston through July 10.



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