The creative folks at the always over-the-top Cirque du Soleil have finally heard the words less is more, but that doesn’t mean they’ve taken the lesson to art. True, Zarkana, which has returned for a second engagement after playing here last summer, is now leaner: The deletion of one act and the overlong intermission has whittled down the running time to under two hours, all the better to attract families. However, many of the flaws that existed in the show’s previous incarnation remain—namely, an uninvolving love story, bland pop ballads (belted in “Cirquish” this time, not English) and unremitting sensory overload.
But ignore all that (a cocktail or two should help) and you’re left with a formidable spectacle featuring eye-popping steampunk aesthetics and jaw-dropping feats. It’s tough to pick favorites, since the Canadian troupe consistently employs the world’s top circus performers—yes, you’ve seen these tricks before, but never with such finesse. Carole Demers elicits yelps as she launches into the air, twisting and turning, only to land perfectly on the thin Russian bar; Anatoly Zalevskiy’s effortless hand-balancing makes you wonder if he’s attached to invisible wires; and sand painter Erika Chen’s temporary pictures remain etched in your mind.
And then there’s the background video projections, the fire-breathing, the lowbrow clowns, the massive spiderweb…even in the cavernous Radio City, it’s just too much. No wonder Zarkana’s next stop is Vegas.—Raven Snook