If I may don the critic-curmudgeon hat: People don’t see life anymore; they record it. Behold the hordes of mouth breathers shuffling through Times Square, digital cameras and smartphones extended like a buffer against reality as they suck up gigabytes of banal data later to be vomited on social-media platforms for the mild amusement of strangers and the enrichment of billionaires. Normally I don’t care about a person’s mediated, zomboid existence, but when some ass-monkey at Spiegelworld: Empire blocks my view to shoot a home movie of the sexy acrobats, I object.
Sure, with a show as spectacular and kinetically stunning as this, you would expect the general public to take some of the thrills home in their pockets, to illustrate feats they’ll enthusiastically relate to family and friends. Those folks will have an easier job of it than I, who have only words and a photo to evoke the neocircus highlights. These include the ethereal Elena Lev, who climbs into a giant transparent orb over our heads and does splits and flips in it. There’s the amazing Yonas Alemu, who lies on his back and juggles the fearless young Tariku Degefa on his feet, flipping the boy over and over like a seal with a ball. Three Ukrainian blonds make amazing formations on top of each other. And it’s hard to do justice to the balance artistry of Rigolo, who builds a gravity-flouting latticework of sticks, each perched on the other. Louche chanteuse Lena Hall sings gloriously between acts.
As with past spiegeltent events, there’s a sliver of narrative at the beginning that gets lightly tossed aside after about 15 minutes. Here, a superrich impresario wants to honor some individuals he calls the New York Legends. If you fear a night of social messages, don’t worry. Despite lame one-liners about the Facebook IPO and 1 percenters versus 99 percenters, this is timeless stuff: physical feats and illusions that have been practiced for centuries—long before the technology that seeks, foolishly, to capture them.—David Cote
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