Thursday, February 20, 2014
Review: Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai suffers from confusing story
That confusion overshadowed the impressive acrobatics.
FRISCO Something's just a little off about Cirque du Soleil show Varekai, which runs at Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco through Sunday, Feb. 23. The costumes are dazzling and the acrobatics delight, but the story never succeeds.
Varekai takes audiences deep into a mythical, magical forest where human-sized creatures perch high on bamboo sticks while critters dance on the floor. The plot is centered on this mysterious place, and that's precisely the problem: What really goes on down there, and why, is still a mystery.
The apparent main character is a man dressed in white named Icarus, who resembled Rocky Horror from the eponymous film. His expression was blank and lifeless, too, like Rocky, as he danced in the air in a hammock-like net. His eerie, elegant movements were in stark contrast to the colorful, cheery creatures below.
The twirler stole the stage in Act I, tossing as many as three sticks that flickered like glow sticks high in the arena. She showed careful confidence as she twisted the batons around her neck, shoulders and elbows.
When the crawly creatures returned to the stage for another bout of acrobatics, there were moments of cartoon-like magic, as if we got a glimpse into their world when humans aren't looking. But then the crutch dancer took over, swinging his feet and body in circles with occasional hip-hop moves. Amazing it was, but it was also unnerving. Creatures behind him lurked with skulls on their heads, killing the revelry.
The truly gasp-worthy act of the night was the hand-balancer who contorted on canes placed strategically on the stage. She had a mermaid-like quality, with a glimmering one-piece body suit that captured the light just right as she bent her toes up to her head or stretched to the side in a split.
But again the show suffered that start-stop flow, with performances that were cheery, then creepy, silly, then sensual, and a storyline that didn't glue it together. At the end, performers came out for what seemed like a bow, but then one more act blossomed from nowhere -- the Russian swings. The smaller of the performers launched themselves from swinging contraptions effortlessly, flying and flipping before they thudded onto two sheets suspended in the air for cushion.
Audiences on opening night leapt to their feet when they realized the show had found its conclusion. As they filed out, I overheard audience members still trying to piece together what kind of story Varekai was supposed to tell.
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