Theater Review: LA NOUBA (Cirque du Soleil in Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando)

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by Tony Frankel on January 12, 2011

in Extras,Theater-Regional

A KINDER, SIMPLER CIRQUE

Commedia dell’arte is a form of theatre characterized by masked ‘types,’ which began in Italy in the mid-1500s. About one hundred years later, Italian troupes (known as Comédie-Italienne) had achieved success in France where Moliére, inspired by the use of stock characters, introduced a lovelorn peasant named Pierrot in the play Don Juan. While the Comédie-Italienne incorporated Pierrot as a sad clown in their future endeavors, other French playwrights imbued Pierrot with a distinct personality: that of the outsider isolated from the social world around him. He presents a comic flair even as his love is forsaken, which creates pathos that embraces the hearts of audience members who can easily relate to Pierrot’s estrangement.

La Nouba Les ConsWhen Pierrot appears in La Nouba, Cirque du Soleil’s permanent show in Walt Disney World, Florida, he is one tiny element in this phantasmagoria of re-imagined circus acts, but one that stuck out for me because his presence brings humanity to a show that could easily have fallen into the trap of some subsequent Cirque shows in Las Vegas where the human is treated merely as an acrobatic machine. Here, Pierrot is the sad clown as dancer who interacts with a lost ballerina; without dialogue, their time on stage in between other acts evinces longing, desire and fear. There is also The Acrobatic Pierrot, who mimes a commentary on the main acts of the show; he is still an outsider, but he keeps us grounded as sixty-seven performers festoon the stage. Unknown to the audience (there is no program), he is called the Red Pierrot, after a species of butterfly. Like his namesake, he flits about the stage, somehow cross-pollinating his fellow acrobats.

La Nouba JugglerOne of the most mesmerizing acts is the stunt-riding wizard doing tricks on a BMX bike; he coils, curls and spins on one wheel. The second half of the act features another artist who hops his bike up and down steps and into the audience. Even more amazing was the background company who morphed into a completely different stage picture every time a new trick was completed, silently mirroring our own amazement – the effect is uncanny.

The acts in and of themselves are brilliant. One in particular had the audience screaming with delight: The Diabolo, or Chinese yo-yo, is a children’s game where four young Chinese performers hold two sticks linked by a string – they slide, juggle and toss a wooden spool while executing flips in the air. They were delightful and entrancing.

La Nouba Pierrot DancerThere are aerial ballets, flying trapeze artists and a mind-boggling juggler. Other characters include the nightmarish Titan, the playful Green Bird and my favorite, the Four Nuts, whose job it is to mind everyone’s business but their own.

La Nouba never pretends to be more than it is: a thrilling evening of performers at the height of their acrobatic skills, lovingly supported by an array of characters that seem to mimic the many dimensions of our psyche. Plus, there are the Everyman Clowns who show us the comical side of man’s occasional inability to complete the simplest of tasks (make sure you show up early for the pre-show). La Nouba is dreamy, entertaining, inspiring and fun.

photos courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

La Nouba
Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida
open run
for tickets, visit Cirque du Soleil

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