Wait, you ask… it’s March. How could I be talking about a Cirque show, don’t I always see them in December? Why yes… that has been the pattern. And that tradition has indeed been broken, a little, this year, as I waited for the show to come down to San Jose rather than taking the trip up to the San Fran. No matter! Cirque is in town, and Vicki and I maintained the grander tradition of our pilgrimage to the Grand Chapitau. So let’s dive into this waking dream of Mexico…
(As a brief aside… I’ve now seen a dozen Cirque shows. Crazy cool!)
Let’s not kid around here – this is Cirque. They are a powerhouse of performers and artists and artistry and vision. They never fail to amaze and delight. There’s never any question about that. Even their weaker shows are still pretty damn amazing. And Luzia is not one of their weaker shows. Their last touring show, Kurios, was an upswing in calibre from the previous two shows that had preceded it, and Luzia heartily continues that upswing.
Luzia may be – and this feels weird typing it given the incredible spectacle – one of the more sedate Cirque shows, at least insofar as the absolute number of impossible acts per hour*. In no way does that mean they are not good – they are all solid and amazing feats of human capacity. It is the artistry and the flow, however, that really takes centre stage in this production, and they are both masterfully delicious. Right from the get go the stage is covered in flowers, while fanciful birds and robots (yes, lovable robots!) tend to them, all presided over by a giant hanging disk that forms an everpresent backdrop. Vibrant colours, giant butterflies, candles, trees, bugs, cacti, and more continually grace the show. Artful lighting plays across the relief in that giant disk. Giant ‘puppet’ animals, including a lovely jaguar, make their way across the stage and are treated with delightful respect. All nicely evocative.
And inventive. Many of the acts, while perhaps not being as extreme vis-à-vis other Cirque shows, are presented and remixed in very new and engaging ways. The first act is a hoop diving and tumbling act that takes place on a giant set of conveyor belts that at times move towards, away, or in parallel with each other. A hand balancer ups the ante by building a tower of hand balancing stands (atop a lifeguard station), which sways and sags and makes the feats both hilarious and that much more impressive. Soccer players strut their amazing stuff. And then water. Oh the water. Water is a big theme here, and there’s a pool of water that could be revealed in the middle of the stage, and several of the acts, such as the aerial straps, use that pool to bring new and exciting visual punches to the act.
The pièce de résistance though, without a doubt, is this amazing water curtain, showering down from the very top of the tent. Made of discrete streams of water, the curtain can be so precisely modulated that it can part like a curtain to let actors pass, can follow, even chase, someone across the stage, and, most absolutely mesmerizing of all, can draw shimmering patterns and images right there in mid air, scrolling forever downward. Absolutely stunning to watch.
Overall, Luzia has a loose narrative that wends its way throughout and leads to an end that is wonderfully open to interpretation. It is also the wrapper for all the clown acts, making this one of the best integrations of the clown(s) into the theme (and the story) in a long time. This made me extremely happy. Never was the feel and the world being created interrupted by discordant characters or moments.
I thoroughly enjoyed Luzia. A good, strong, Cirque show. Go see! You’ll like it lots.
* Aka the IAPH Score, my metric for the number of times in the show that they completely break the laws of physics and my brain says “I’m sorry, the world doesn’t work that way” and yet they keep doing it and it’s amazing and my jaw hits the floor numerous times and holycowwow.