It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again: Calling Cirque du Soleil “just a circus” is analogous to calling the Sistine Chapel “just a little old church.” With acts that range from the deeply philosophical to the intensely erotic to the profoundly non-sensical, Cirque du Soleil’s “Quidam” is not merely a show-it is a two-hour journey of the senses into a land of child-like magic.
The word quidam is Latin for a faceless passerby: a person in a multitude, who, somehow, still has his own identity. The entire spectacle circles on this theme: how to find and keep one’s sense of wonder and individuality in a jaded crowd.
Never resorting to tired and used gags (save for the three dirty, old Italian men who play the clowns), “Quidam” serves up wonder after wonder. The opening act, for example, involves a man inside a giant hamster wheel who seemingly defies every rule of gravity known to man. Trapeze artists performing with hula hoops somehow fit three of their number into a single hoop.
The most affecting number, however, was a rope-suspended contortionist-or alternatively, the most graceful dancer to ever perform while entangled on two long sheets of red fabric. One’s mind repeatedly shouts: “The human body is not meant to bend that way!” Yet the performer continually does, and makes it look easy. With a buff-colored costume that makes her look as if she is nude and her movements within her red cocoon, this act is beautiful in its eroticism and sensuality.
There was also a jump-rope performance. It never occurred to me that jump rope might be a circus act, but after watching a dozen people jump a dozen ropes in unison, while moving in a circle, and doing summersaults between each skip, the point has been more than proven.
The aforementioned clowns also deserve special attention. Though they do use every old gag in the book-repeatedly-they manage to reinvent them and make them their own. They pop balloons, push each other around, make fart jokes, squirt water, and somehow make it all seem like this is the first time this has ever been done. Plus, they dress in tights and tutus. How can they go wrong?
The great acts are not enough to create the famous Cirque du Soleil magic, however-it comes from the music, the song, and the apparently superfluous characters that hang around in the back: A headless quidam who offers his hat to a little girl; a scary clown with boxing gloves; various dancers and suspended, flying figures all add a touch of dream-like surrealism to complete the show.
The big yellow and blue top houses an astounding 2,500 spectators, while still maintaining a very cozy, intimate feel-all without sacrificing anyone’s view of the stage. With over 50 performers of 10 different nationalities, “Quidam” brings the wonder to those who thought life was dull once again.
“Quidam” and its big top will be at Bicentennial park until March 10. For info, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.