Thursday, July 31, 2014

Varekai: Cirque du Soleil

I am a big fan of Cirque du Soleil, so it pains me to write the following: Varekai is mediocre and even kind of boring.

Octavio Alegria
To be perfectly fair, I'd like to provide some context. Varekai is at Barclays Center. My friend and I got there 15 minutes before the doors opened. We were moved to different doors and different doors again, supposedly because the original doors were not being used. And then they were used. But that's a small inconvenience that I probably wouldn't have noticed if my nerves were not on edge from listening to the Barclays announcement be played again and again and again and again and again while we waited. Loudly. The announcement talked about restrictions on what you could bring in (food, drink, bottles, cans, fireworks, and weapons, in that order), their no-reentry policy, and so on. We heard it some 20 times, without even a few seconds between each playing. And did I mention it was loud? Really, really loud? And when we were let in, we were treated like people with prison records visiting a nuclear missle site.

The show itself began slowly, with forest creatures (I guess) slithering and sort of dancing. There was a lot of slithering and sort of dancing in the show. The non-acrobatic interludes were the dullest I've ever seen at Cirque du Soleil, by far. The clowns were largely annoying. The male clown did have a nice bit trying to sing a song in a, well, erratic spotlight. The female got bonked on the head and was treated as sexually desperate. At one point, her head exploded. He was presented as a sort of noble fool; she was presented as an idiot.

Here is a description of Varekai from the website:
Deep within a forest, at the summit of a volcano, exists an extraordinary world - a world where something else is possible. A world called Varekai
From the sky falls a solitary young man, and the story of Varekai begins. Parachuted into the shadows of a magical forest, a kaleidoscopic world populated by fantastical creatures, this young man sets off on an adventure both absurd and extraordinary. On this day at the edge of time, in this place of all possibilities, begins an inspired incantation to life rediscovered. 
The word Varekai means "wherever" in the Romany language of the gypsies the universal wanderers. This production pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition, and to the infinite passion of those whose quest takes them along the path that leads to Varekai.
They say "wherever." I say, whatever.

So, what about the acrobatics? It was difficult to focus on them. Nearly everyone wore overdone, hyper-ornate costumes, and the overcostuming was frequently distracting. For example, when the forest creatures did some amazing moves, it was hard to make out what their bodies were doing amid all the fru-fru. And the horribly overamplified music didn't help.

But here is what did work.
  • The wonderful Octavio Alegria, juggling with more parts of his body than one might think possible.
  • The woman hand-balancing on canes. (I don't have the name of the performer, as we did not receive programs. We received something that sort of looked like a program, but it was basically ads.)
  • The Icarian Games, which is people juggling. Very brave and agile people.
  • The Russian Swings, a sort of seesaw-based trapeze act with some extraordinary flying through air with the greatest of ease.
So the evening wasn't a total loss. But, and this is something else I thought I'd never write about Cirque du Soleil, I was glad when the show ended.

(press tickets, 13th row orchestra--in back of floor seating--slightly off center)


Anonymous said...

Ugh it sounds horrible! It's one (stupid) thing to lose my hearing because I'm listening to something I love, but due to announcements and over amplified music? No thanks. Luckily, the last time I saw Cirque, I was warned by someone in the know, who told me to bring earplugs!

Wendy Caster said...

Luckily, I keep earplugs in my backpack, just in case. I use them maybe 3 times a year, but boy am I grateful to have them with me!

Thanks for posting.

Wendy Caster said...

Uh, commenting, not posting! :)