The Balance Goddess performs in Amaluna.
Photo by Laurence Labat
Sensory overload has always been the name of the game at Cirque du Soleil, and that comes early and often in Amaluna, the new piece playing over the next three weeks at the company's signature tent at the Mall of America.
At one point in the opening act, I wasn't sure if I should focus on the cellist flying through the air, the two aerialists (helpfully named in the program as the god and goddess of the wind) contorting on a different flying apparatus, or the pair of guitar players at the foot of the stage, one slinging a purple Les Paul and strutting like a female version of Prince.
Director Diane Paulus has worked to bring a modern edge to the classics in her career in the theater and opera, and that touch serves Amaluna well. The story is a bit more cogent than usual for Cirque, in part because it lifts quite a bit from Shakespeare's final play, The Tempest (along with some touches of Greek mythology, and Romeo from Romeo and Juliet for some reason).
Then again, you don't attend a Cirque du Soleil show for the plot. It's about the intersection between physical skill, amazingly slick production values, and a vibe that attempts to merge high-tech glitz with worthy messages.
It can be headache inducing, though Amaluna is light on those sequences. The hardest take here, as is often the case, is the clowning, which manages to go on for far too long and not be the least bit funny.
The showcased high-flying moments, including the various aerial sets to an uneven-bar routine (for the women) and a teeterboard (for the men) are particularly impressive, as is the opening Chinese acrobat routine.
Yet the most affecting scenes were ones that highlighted a single performer's skills while providing an almost breathtaking beauty. Two back-to-back moments in act two were the absolute highlights.
In the first, performer Lara Jacobs appeared as the Balance Goddess. At her feet were a pile of sticks, ranging from a few inches long to six feet. Carefully using her toes, she picked each one up and added it to the precisely balanced collection she held in one hand. (Think of it as a case of reverse Jenga.)
That was followed by Evgeny Kurkin, playing the displaced Romeo, who climbed, descended, and danced on a Chinese pole that reached at least 20 feet into the air. Apart from his considerable strength (Kurkin first climbed it using only his arms), the performer showcased a real grace as we instantly understood his pain at being separated from his beloved, Ju... er, Miranda.
Again, it's not the plot but the feelings that matter in Amaluna, and moments like these help to bring a bit of heart to the noise and fury of the show.
IF YOU GO:
Through Oct. 20
Mall of America, Bloomington