Tim Leininger, Contributing Critic - Connecticut
There are times in life where the appropriate adjective does not exist. In the languages that I am familiar with there is not a word that adequately describes how beautiful is Cirque du Soleil’s show, “Luzia,” currently running in Hartford on Market Street not far from Dunkin’ Donuts Ballpark through July 21.
Set in a fantastic, imaginative, and surreal expression of Mexico, the audience is taken through various impressions of Mexican culture, environments, and heritage.
Through the imagination of a clown who winds up a key on stage we are transported to hidden caves, vast deserts and oceans, dense jungles, sacred temples, the Golden age of Mexican cinema, and more.
The design is exquisite. The show opens with rings of flowers in the single circle stage under the big top. A giant disc hovers upstage, rotating from time to time, representing the Mayan calendar, the sun, Moon, and used as a projection for various purposes, to show things like the Monarch butterfly migration and underwater life. A rain machine situated center stage is heavily featured throughout the show, representing waterfalls and various other bodies of water.
The artists, who perform the various feats of strength, dexterity, and daredevil summersaults through the air, accentuate the themes of Mexican life within the show.
Everybody is going to have a different favorite act. Some of the bigger crowd pleasers Wednesday night were the swinging acrobats and the juggler.
My personal favorites were the ones that, for me, connected deeper with the environment and communicated the sensuality of the space they are in.
The three men and woman who make up the Adagio Quatuor, in which the woman bends, twists, and turns, as she is spun, flipped and thrown across the center ring of the Cirque big top by the three men has an erotic passion in it with its smoky cantina setting.
The aerobatic strap routine in the second act gorgeously integrates the water effects as the man, Stephen Brine, swings around, and communes with a jaguar puppet that has as much, if not more detail than the animals in the Broadway production of “The Lion King.”
In my experience with contortionists, both at Cirque and at other circuses and carnivals, there is a sort of feline quality, feeling sweetly seductive. In “Luzia” though, the contortionist, Aleksei Goloborodko, has a serpentine quality that is more foreboding and a little more scary than enticing. It’s a welcome deviation from the traditional routine.
Some of these artists get to do their routines with the rain machine running, which can appear simply thrilling as you fear for their ability to hold on to whatever they are hanging from or working with and not slip and fall.
After most routines that incorporate the rain, the stage is quickly cleaned up before the next act. It takes a few minutes to do, but that is fine as the clown that we travel with through the story’s narrative entertains the audience while the crew is busy working, cleaning up the stage. Those of you with coulrophobia need not worry. The clown is not made up in the traditional sense with grease paint and poofy red hair. He is casually dressed and doesn’t have any “traditional” clown make up on.
The best part of “Luzia” is its very apparent love for Mexico and its people. The live music, the costumes, the effects, and the performances all engross the audience in a beautiful menagerie of life and is not a show to be missed.
Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia
Stage: Under the Grand Chapiteau Big Top
Location: 302-408 Market St., Hartford
Production: Founded by Guy Laliberte; Chief Creative Officer and Creative Guide: Jean-Francois Bouchard; Written and Directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca; Director of Creation: Patricia Ruel; Co-written by Julie Hamelin Finzi; Associate Director: Brigitte Poupart; Interim Director of Creation: Richard Dagenais; Set and Props Design by Eugenio Caballero; Costume Design by Giovanna Buzzi; Composer and Music Direction by Simon Carpentier; Acrobatic Choreography by Edesia Moreno Barata, Debra Brown, and Silvia Gertrudix Gonzalez; Puppet Design by Max Humphries; Lighting Design by Martin LaBrecque; Projection Design by Johnny Ranger; Sound Design by Jacques Boucher; Acrobatic Performance Design by Philippe Aubertin and Rob Bollinger; Acrobatic Equipment and Rigging Design by Danny Zen; Make-up Design by Maryse Gosselin
Show times: Evening: Tuesday through Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 5 p.m. Matinee: Friday and Saturday 4:30 p.m., Sunday 1:30 p.m. Show times subject to change.
Tickets: $55 to $250. Available online at www.cirquedusoleil.com, by phone at 877-924-7783, or at the box office.