Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios—Cabinet of Curiosities is a procession of wonders: the Canadian circus giant’s sharpest, sexiest, most stylish production in years. In a departure from the otherwordly themes for which Cirque is best known, writer-director Michel Laprise embraces a steampunk aesthetic: metal and leather, chunky robots, glowing filaments under glass, a singer with a phonograph horn on her head. The style may be retro, but the acts—and the technical ingenuity that makes them possible—are fully up-to-date. The show is a mad scientist’s lab of wild invention, in which circus artists from around the planet perform routines of breathtaking beauty and precision.
Ukraine’s Andrii Bondarenko projects insouciant ease as he perches gracefully atop a Jenga-like tower of chairs in a dinner-party sequence that is cleverly mirrored from above. Taiwan’s Chih-Min Tuan, a yo-yo master, performs dazzlingly quick, ravey skills with glowing pocket watches. Colombia’s James Eulises Gonzales, dressed as an aviator, keeps his balance as he rolls on eight cylinders. Russian-American brothers Roman and Vitali Tomanov, initially presented as conjoined twins, separate to swing shirtlessly through a cunningly coordinated strap act.
The extravagant whimsicality of Cirque’s more fantastical past shows gets a nod in a pair of aquatically themed sequences. In one, four sleek contortionists in body-hugging tights form interlocking patterns atop a giant mechanical hand; in the other, an ensemble of acrobats, in colorful little side fins, combines elements of tumbling and trampoline to flop and twist like fish on a bouncy “acro net” suspended above the stage. Additional variety is provided by well-honed comic acts. Argentina’s Facundo Gimenez hilariously depicts a date interrupted by animal instincts, and Spain’s Nico Baixas performs a marvelous variation on hand puppetry in which his hand is the puppet—like The Addams Family’s Thing let loose—with manual antics that are projected onto a giant paper lantern.
Even the side details are delightful: Canada’s Karl L’Écuyer seems to travel with his own bathysphere, which contains a very little old lady (Belarus’s Antanina Satsura, one of the 10 smallest people in the world). In its thrilling union of evocative old-time aesthetics and stunning international talent, Kurios seems determined to be, as old circus hype would have it, the greatest show on earth. Watching it, agape with pleasure, you may not disagree.
Grand Chapiteau (Off Broadway). Written and directed by Michel Laprise. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission. Through Nov 27. Click here for full ticket and venue information.
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