When four utterly unrepentant and frightfully jaded fags jump to their feet in a spontaneous standing ovation during a spectacular grand finale celebrating heterosexuality, it's a given that theatrical alchemy is afoot. Every production of Cirque du Soleil that I've had the good fortune to experience has evoked a mood, an intangible visceral response that lingers long after. Amaluna
is the first time I have been invested in the characters, and that is a different and delightful twist. The plot of The Tempest
is given a gender twist and then stuffed full of circus acts that are not shoehorned in but rather advance the story arc or shed light on characters' internal motivations.
But none of that really matters because Amaluna
is a rollicking good time with thrilling acts and a breathtaking pace that dispenses with the lengthy scene changes and irrelevant clowning to stall for time while equipment is wheeled in and out. The choice of theatrical director Diane Paulus was a good one, with this being the tightest-paced and visually coherent Cirque I have seen yet. And it is a feast of circus performances. From the first gasp-inducing Icarian Games and Water Meteors collage of tumbling and swinging glass orbs, to the cockily sensual and seemingly physically impossible juggling by Victor Kee, the acts are thrilling. Lara Jacobs balances palm fronds to the rhythm of her own breathing, and the entire tentful of circus-goers stops breathing in sheer suspense. Audible gasps were induced several times during Edouard Doye's Chinese pole act, but then, every time he took off his shirt -- fortunately often - a goosebump-inducing, show-stopping special effect in the form of pecs and abs was unleashed.
doesn't dance around the eroticism that goes hand in hand with a circus. Bozyan Suren and Karyna Konchakivska churn up a sexy storm, literally, in an aerial act that celebrates the violent joy of love/hate sex and the lightning-quick fire of an intense sexual relationship. Iuliia Mykhailova contorts in the thematically central water bowl before astounding with water-flinging contortions on dry land. Marie-Michelle Faber soars above the crowd and sings gorgeously at the same time -- take that, Britney's Circus
. The guitar-heavy band, all female and clad in Prince's Purple Rain
leftovers, drive the action forward -- while erring on the side of soft rock, it is a welcome and stirring change from Cirque's formula world beat. The amazons on the uneven bars and the frat-boy teeterboard act (with the very welcome addition of chest hair -- the frat boys, not the amazons) excite but also support and accentuate the love story, which, alas, remains resolutely heterosexual. The plot of an island of women -- though there are some male peacocks at the beginning -- absorbing men and masculine energy is hammered home. Even the hilarious clowns, including Nathalie Claude, who demonstrates just how vast her range is by creating a character miles from her memorable turn in The Salon Automaton
at Buddies, do a riff on love and marriage that, while sending up the norm -- however normal football babies can be -- also takes it for granted. I would have loved for Kee's Caliban character to get it on with Doye's Romeo -- as charming as Mykhailova's Miranda is, the moments when Kee had a shirtless Doye trapped beneath him in the water bowl was an erotic opportunity that should not have been abandoned -- for a true happy ending, but, like everyone else, I was on my feet cheering and teary-eyed as the eye-popping wedding finale filled the big top with a visual, and emotional, catharsis.
Amaluna runs till Sun, Nov 4 under Le Grand Chapiteau, 51 Commissioners St. cirquedusoleil.com
Check out our preview interview with artistic director Mark Pawsey and a video interview with Pawsey (with lots of hot visuals from the show).