Damn Everything But the Circus

The arrival of intermission at Cirque du Soleli’s Quidam comes as a somewhat disarming surprise. The classical circus feats and arena-worthy hippie tricks that make up the show are so packed with show-stopping moments that the dropping of jaws and clapping of hands becomes nearly perpetual. When the mid-show break occurs the applause does not crescendo. It fades slowly and unsurely, the audience only beginning to recover from a spectacle-induced stupor.

A simplistic plot attempts to tie together the dazzle assault: Zoé, a restless child unable to engage her parents, literally lets the magic into her home by opening her front door for a headless passerby. Her domestic confines dissolve and Zoé is whisked away to a gleeful world of cloud swinging and German wheeling. Her newspaper-reading, ennui-projecting parents are reluctantly whisked along with her and by the show’s conclusion are united with their offspring in whimsical appreciation.

This is about as heavy a narrative as a show overloaded with clowns and gymnastics can sustain. One can’t expect to pay attention to what Zoé’s mother or father are doing on the sidelines while a contortionist manipulates her body around a silk ribbon while dangling in mid-air. In fact, one can’t pay much attention to anything except whatever is occurring at any given moment on stage. By the time the banquine performers hurl a petite girl atop a tower of men, all memory of the solo diabolo act has dissipated. The effects are overwhelming but delightful nevertheless. It takes Zoé’s parents the entire show to come around to enjoying the circus before them. It takes the audience far less time.

Quidam ran through July 28th at the Barclays Center.

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Ben Botwick

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