Theater Review: CIRQUE SHANGHAI: WARRIORS (Pepsi Skyline Stage on Navy Pier)

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by Lawrence Bommer on May 29, 2014

in Theater-Chicago,Tours


For a ninth consecutive summer, Cirque Shanghai (its title actually referring to whatever Chinese city produces these performers) has returned to the well-named Skyline Stage on Navy Pier, Chicago’s tourist Mecca. A feast for the family, Warriors is the testosterone-fueled title of this year’s edition, a thrill show that’s a tribute to and showcase for Chinese Kung Fu and Wu Shu masters. The result is athleticism that turns limbs into weapons and boys into, well, soldiers or “Masters of the Sword and Shield.” Presided over by effigies of six Manchu-style guards in full armor and depictions of tiles from Beijing’s Forbidden City, the 75-minute show dispenses with the usual opening pageant of running dragons, clashing gongs, or leaping Fu dogs. It gets right to the (performance) point.

Cirque Shanghai - WARRIORS, Global of Death

Miao Chen’s panoply of superb stunts opens with firm young men swinging from “kinetic poles” (no erotic dancing with these staves). Following this acrobatic achievement comes the “Water Meteor,” with the women using slings to toss and catch objects at hand. The men return with the reliable feats of hoop-diving, while the women balance symbolic lotus flowers on their mouths and other improbable fulcra.

Cirque Shanghai - WARRIORS, Opening Wushu

Showing they’re not just for girls, the boys create a literal “fan club” as they manipulate the elegant red objects with masculine precision and ferocity (no coquettishness here). They use teeterboard bouncing to create a five-person high. A lovely couple soars on a sash; another indulges in an “adagio dance” or “Shoulder Ballet” that comes close to the real thing. Macho boys crack whips and practice death thrusts with stylized spears in a Wu Shu-style “Pageant of Arms.”  For comic relief the “Wow” clown brings on an audience member (or plant) to help him flawlessly kick miniature bowls and a tiny spoon onto his well-centered head.

Cirque Shanghai - WARRIORS, Teeterboard

Of course, the awe-inspiring, heart-stopping, and gag-reflexing acts come last. The “Wheel of Destiny” features two ever-smiling teenagers who effortlessly defy gravity, every survival instinct, and death itself to play (as in juggle and jump rope) within and on top of two whirling wheels that take them from the top of the proscenium to the stage floor. You will re-taste your dinner and test your heart at the same time.

Cirque Shanghai - WARRIORS, Wheel of Destiny

Finally, the ever-amazing, totally awesome “Imperial Thunder” gradually puts five motorcyclists into a giant steel “Globe of Death” (my term): In partial darkness and identified only by a signature color riding-light, they come all too close to each other. (Interestingly, the fifth cyclist is a woman, thus destroying any cynicism that the presence of a modern Mulan would throw off the men’s teamwork or concentration. But then the director Miao Chen is a woman too.)

Warriors delivers its circus goods with impressive, even enthralling, efficiency. These acts are each an art.

Cirque Shanghai - WARRIORS - Duo Silksphotos courtesy of Cirque Shanghai

Cirque Shanghai: Warriors
Pepsi Skyline Stage
Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave
Wed at 2, 6 and 8 pm; Thurs at 2 and 8 pm;
Fri at 2, 7 and 9 pm; Sat at 2, 6 and 8 pm;
Sun at 2 and 4 pm
ends on September 1, 2014
for tickets, call 800-745-3000
or visit Ticketmaster

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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