San Francisco and Tour Theater Review: AMALUNA (Cirque du Soleil)

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by Stacy Trevenon on November 20, 2013

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area,Tours


A big top with a 13-meter stage, despite its yawning spatial dimensions, hardly seemed big enough to contain the amount of sheer artistry, astounding gymnastic physicality, slapstick humor, mythology, classic literature, contemporary music and dazzling delight that make up Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna, a tribute to the voice and work of women. This astonishing, captivating, and delightful event interweaves a predominantly female international cast, Greek mythology, Shakespeare, stunning design, heart-tugging romance, unbelievable feats of balance and contortion, and daring, plucky fun. I found myself riveted to my seat, looking every which way, marveling at what the human body – and human imagination – are capable of.

Amaluna Cirque du Soleil, Chinese Pole

It may seem unlikely but shaped by innovative Broadway director, Diane Paulus, it works beautifully. With Randy Weiner as dramaturge, William Shakespeare’s The Tempest is the framework for this magical, romantic and coming-of-age story. Scott Pask’s set creates a mysterious, lush island with its forest of bamboo-like branches that are used to border the action. Figures frolic throughout, their characterizations and amazing skills beautifully tailored to reflect the island tale: There is the island’s benevolent queen Prospera (Julie McInnes), who also plays a searing blue cello; and the half-man, half-lizard Cali (Viktor Kee), who has a realistic, expressively switching tail, and also surprises as an astonishingly deft juggler.

Amaluna Cirque du Soleil, Clowns

Two clowns, the scolding fraulein Deeda (Shereen Hickman) and the mustachioed Jeeves (Nathalie Claude), provide continuity as they tell of their endearingly bumbling romance in mime (at times utilizing audience members). Also within this mythical landscape are a gravity-defying moon goddess (Leysan Gayazova) and the nubile innocent Miranda (Juliia Mykhailova) and her beloved buff Romeo (Evgeny Kurkin). This backdrop of the story supports the main acts, known as Valkyries, Icarians, Lizards, Amazons, and the God and Goddess of the Wind; they frolicked daringly and effortlessly on the uneven bars, Chinese and suspended poles, canes, aerial straps, hula hoops, teeterboard, and even a large bowl of water that expressed character in an groundbreaking way. The audience watched in breathless silence as Lara Jacobs Rigolo used not just fingers but toes and knees to delicately pick up an assortment of palm fronds of varying lengths, one at a time, to create an astonishing, ephemeral air castle she wound up balancing on her head.

Amaluna Cirque du Soleil, Icarian Games and Water meteors

Composers and arrangers Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard (aka Bob & Bill) blur the lines between genres and styles, and the bar of energy is raised by world-class musicians Jenifer Aubry, Janine de Lorenzo, Mireille Marchal, McInnes, Teresa Morini, Didi Negron, Angie Swan and Rachael Wood.

Amaluna Cirque du Soleil, Uneven bars

The performance provided amazement upon amazement, almost an overload of visual sensation were it not for the sheer delight of the spectacle. I found myself equally awed by the subtler elements, especially the Shakespearean references and the myriad of highly effective details in Eleni Uranis’s makeup and Mérédith Caron’s stunning costumes. The performers achieved a delicate but effective balance of keeping a story running while beautifully illustrating their gymnastic artistry. One element did not overshadow another, but beautifully complemented each other throughout. “These are the elite,” a crew member remarked to me during intermission, and I was struck by that understatement. There are few descriptions as vast as the aerial artists’ sweeping plunge through the air from I don’t know how many stories up. If only Shakespeare could have lived to see it, and it’s our good fortune that we can.

Amaluna Cirque du Soleil, Water Bowl

photos © Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil
under the Big Top at AT&T Park
corner of Third Street and Terry A. Francois Blvd.
scheduled to end on January 12, 2014
then plays San Jose at Taylor Street Bridge
January 22 – March 2, 2014
then continues on tour
for tickets, call 800-450-1480 or visit Cirque du Soleil

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