Although Amaluna strictly follows the Cirque du Soleil tried-and-true formula, this show has its own pleasures and excitements.
By Joel Benjamin
The Cirque du Soleil has returned with a new production, Amaluna, directed by none other than Broadway super-nova, Diane Paulus. She has applied her showbiz know-how in a vain attempt to tame the unruly, but extraordinarily entertaining Cirque to Soleil formula which involves an almost undetectable wisp of a plot onto which is added exciting, vigorous acrobatic acts to which is further added gorgeous costumes and lots of music of indeterminate period and place. Her version of this latest incarnation of Cirque du Soleil is, for all intents and circumstances, identical in almost every way, except for petty details, to all other Cirque spectacles. Amaluna’s plot is Tempest meets Romeo and Juliet, with character names glossing on Shakespeare’s, such as Prospera, Miranda, Cali, etc. Since no basic programs are provided, most of the audience members came away thinking that they were seeing an exotic Romeo and Juliet. Not a single person I spoke to caught The Tempest reference. But, you know, it doesn’t matter because people of all ages don’t come to see nebulous, undeveloped plotlines, but to ogle masterful feats of physical derring-do. No seeker of exciting entertainment came away disappointed.
From the Icarians and Water Meteors group who twirled and tossed lit glass bowls on soft sticks to the all female Uneven Bars act, in which the performers outdid Olympic gymnasts with their hair raising timing as they slammed into the sculptural pipes, cutting through space, the acts followed each other with only the wispiest connection to the love story.
The two most impressive presentations were at opposite ends of the kinetic spectrum. The hunky men of the Teeterboard leaped onto several giant seesaws sending each other somersaulting into the air, landing on each others’ feet and shoulders in ever more complicated moves. Lili Chao, the Balance Goddess, provided the nearest thing to a Zen moment in the evening. To quiet music, she picked up one wooden piece, hanging the next one onto it, one piece of a 3-D jigsaw puzzle after another, finally building a beautiful mobile which she delicately balanced on her head then on a shapely stick. Her concentration was magnificent.
Only an extremely silly comic relief couple, Jeeves (Nathalie Claude who looked more like a pirate than a servant) and Deeda (a plump Sheeren Hickman) disappointed. They veered perilously close to adults-only behavior with their burlesque leering and an overly long birthing scene in which Jeeves reached between a pair of phony legs attached to Deeda to extract coconut shaped “babies,” many of them. An attempt at audience participation—enlisting an audience member to tend the bizarre offspring of Jeeves & Deeda—landed like a lead balloon.
Each of the principal characters in the Shakespeare-lite knockoff had a moment to shine. Miranda (Iuliia Mykhailova) was all lovely innocence as she tiptoed around the edges of the central set piece, a giant glass art nouveau cauldron, finally falling decorously into the water it contained. Romeo (Evgeny Kurkin) revealed an incredibly buff body as he climbed upon the Chinese Pole, falling precipitously several times, his nose just brushing the floor. Cali (Viktor Kee), minus his bizarre but sexy tail, stood upon the cauldron/pool skillfully juggling soft balls dropped from above.
At more than two hours, Amaluna is a generous batch of enthralling entertainment with pretensions of high art that don’t get in the way of the beautiful performers, the gorgeous costumes and the fabled overall slickness of the Cirque du Soleil.
Cirque du Soleil – March 20th – May 18th, 2014
Amaluna – Under the Big Top at Citifield
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission
Tickets and Information: www.cirquedusoleil.com/amaluna
Accessible Seating Information: 1-800-450-1480