Tour Theater Review: KURIOS (Cirque du Soleil)

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by Lawrence Bommer on August 6, 2015

in Theater-Chicago,Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional,Tours


This is a snazzy and pizzazz-packed blast from the past: Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities draws its whimsical magic from the “steampunk” style that melds Victorian design with intricately elaborate (and often useless) industrial gadgetry of the Rube Goldberg persuasion. To this all-morphing mindset, everything can become a machine–the pulleys and fly wheels of factories as much as the inner workings of our minds and souls. Intellectually inspired by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells (League of Extraordinary Gentleman, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, even Wicked), it’s all literal grist for the mill.


Beautifully designed by Michel Laprise in the Tim Burton tradition of ornament for ornament’s sake, Kurios creates a captivating setting for the inspired nonsense of Cirque du Soleil’s 35th revue, now on its North American tour. The trademark blue and gold “grand chapiteau” Big Top is hosting rich retro wonders in which the 19th century returns in full floridity (with appropriate allusions to Monty Python, René Magritte and, since this is still a circus, P.T. Barnum).

MICROCOSMOS-Mini-Lili-from-Cirque-du-Soleiels-KURIOS-CABINET-OF-CURIOSITIES.-Photo-by-Martin-Girard.1Arriving on a huge steam-engine locomotive, the Seeker and his ragtag retinue of 45 artists (from 16 countries) arrive at the stroke of 11:11. The purpose of this zany is nothing less than to halt time so he can pursue the invisible world (that becomes the acts that follow). The result is over two hours of makeshift, mechanical magic, presented by an entourage of absorbing quirk-masters. (There really is no specifici cabinet of curiosities here, just a giant Micro-Cosmos Ball.) These are the Curiosistanians (nerdy acolytes), the literally pot-bellied Mr. Microcosmos, Nico the Accordion Man (his fold-up torso a human bellows), the whalebone-corseted Klara the Telegraph of the Invisible, demure and doll-like Mini Lini (indeed 3.2 feet tall and 39 pounds), and the Winch and Plunger Kurios, robots recycled to combine metal, leather and the imagination.


The thirteen eclectic and enthralling acts that depict the Seeker’s quests are both strikingly original and your basic circus stunts dressed up with steampunk flair. The opening, Chaos Synchro 1900, introduces us to the motley band of jugglers, percussionists, acrobats, and dancers, caught up in a procession as eccentric as a demented dream. Following this rogues’ gallery comes the Russian Cradle Duo, with a burly thrower and an automaton-style doll playing catch on a floating apparatus. Equally levitating, the Aerial Bicycle twirls around, the rider hard put to stay on. The usually conventional contortion act is livened up as four eel-like aquatic creatures wriggle and seethe on top of a gigantic metal hand.


Fun but familiar, the Rola Bola balancing stunts feature an Aviator rolling and cavorting on a host of objects that elevate him beyond, it seems, the laws of physics. A time master spins yo-yos (doubling as pocket watches) with a dexterity that, alas, is not contagious. On a giant “acro net,” trampoline marvels evoke undersea creatures that slingshot from their imaginary net to the height of the big top. A Cirque signature act, “Siamese twin” musclemen swing far over the audience from aerial straps, soaring with a confidence that, alas, is not contagious. This edition’s designated clown invites an audience member (possibly a “plant”) to not be seduced–since his household consists of a parrot, a pet Tyrannosaurus and an appropriately curious cat. Finally, in the literal show-stopping Banquine, 13 artists do a series of leaps of faith and limbs and human pyramids that will stop your heart and collapse your lungs. Crisscrossing in mid-air and somersaulting to beat the band, they forge the happiest anarchy to ever erupt on a center ring.


But in this shape-shifting Kurios two acts really stand out as invigoratingly original. They’re the kind of imagination stretchers that makes Cirque du Soleil not at all Ringling Brothers big tent. Characteristically contrived, these fittingly mechanical feats include The Invisible Circus where a clown ringmaster hots a series of unseen feats, their effects only discernible by subtle props movements and his own mimed amazement. Equally flabbergasting, the Theater of Hands consists of artists employing only their finger action (displayed by a closed-circuit camera on a huge overhead hot-air balloon) to depict a tiny tale that’s remarkably convincing.


Despite the usual predictable Europop score, Kurios sets new standards for the Cirque. The conversion to steampunk energy has recharged the empire’s batteries–visual, thematic, conceptual and audio–like nothing before. Curiosity, after all, is the causation as much as effect of the circus experience. Kurios fully exploits and rewards it. Let the Soleil shine in!


AERIAL-STRAPS-from-Cirque-du-Soleiels-KURIOS-CABINET-OF-CURIOSITIES.-Photo-by-Martin-Girard.1photos © Martin Girard

Cirque du Soleil
Under the Big Top at United Center-Parking Lot K
2 hours 10 minutes, with 25-minute intermission
plays through September 20, 2015
opens October 15, 2015 in Costa Mesa, CA
and on December 10, 2015 in Los Angeles, CA
for tickets and info, call 877-924-7783
or visit KURIOS

for more info on Chicago Theater, visit

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