It’s been pretty noisy around here the last few weeks. What with the Olympics, the conventions, the hype, the punditry, and the outraged blogomanes of all persuasions, the whole country’s been engulfed in a non-stop slugfest, and even the spectators compete for who yells the loudest. Koozå, the new Cirque du Soleil extravaganza, doesn’t provide any relief.
Pitching its big tent at Bayside Expo Center, Koozå opened last Friday for a month-long run (through October 12). The show could almost have been a metaphor for the national state of boisterous excitability. Not a soothing evening, with the band’s volume cranked way up over the ambient air-conditioner whine of the tent, and the clowns running around shouting and farting into their mikes, and the audience having the shrieks on cue.
The only time things calmed down was when Yao Deng Bo, with Zen-like concentration, stacked up eight chairs one by one. After making sure each new chair was precisely lined up, and testing his own balance, he’d slowly heave himself into a single-hand stand with his legs in a split, or unfold into some other improbable posture. He never cracked a smile until he lowered the chairs to his helpers and jumped to the floor.
Koozå isn’t a theme show like some other Cirque du Soleil creations. It’s just a line-up of circus acts — acrobatics, juggling, oddball specialties — linked together by a chorus of dancers and the ever-annoying clowns. Of course the costuming is gorgeous — yes, Cirque du Soleil proves that even a unitard can be gorgeous. With dazzling lighting effects, the simple set opens out like a set of billowing sails, and the one-ring space seems to expand and contract to suit each new marvel.
The trapezes and trampolines and platforms get rigged and moved about with terrific efficiency by invisible techies and the cast members themselves. Teamwork is crucial to these daredevils. The audience may scream at the acrobat who pulls off a triple somersault in the air, but it takes all 13 members of the “Teeterboard” closing number to see that the tumbler gets a good launch and comes back to earth alive.
Some of the equipment, and the stunts to go with it, borders on the fantastic. The tightrope walkers scurry back and forth from opposite ends of two wires. Gradually they raise the ante till they’re crossing the higher span on two bicycles. But wait. The bikes are connected by a bar that rests on the bike riders’ shoulders, and a third adventurer has made his way up onto a chair that’s balanced by one rung on the bar. Women don’t do the big stunts in this show, except for Darya Vintilova, who soars high in the rafters on a trapeze, letting go of the bar completely for a few free spins in the air. The other females either are members of the anonymous ensemble or prance around sexily and hand the stars their props. There were three contortionist ladies who turned their bodies inside out to make a bunch of Cubist sculptures. And the unicyclist’s partner managed to look pretty while wrapped around his shoulders.
I liked the ungimmicky achievers the best, especially juggler Anthony Gatto, who could keep a dozen rings moving so fast in the air that they made collective looping designs, rhythms almost. Gatto could change these trace forms at will, then catch the rings one by one on his arms as they came down.
Then there were the two men who kept a huge object turning by running on the inside and outside rims of its double eight-foot wheels. This “Wheel of Death” hovered above the floor like a spaceship. Elizabeth Streb and her pop-action performers were playing around with something like it last year at the ICA. When the Koozå treadmillers got their twin wheels turning really fast and the ship lofted high into the stratosphere, I shut my eyes.