Zarkana: Cirque Du Soleil at Radio City Music Hall
Have you ever wondered what happens in a theater when everyone goes home, when the costumes and scenery are packed away and the lights go out? This is Zarkana, a tale of what happens in an abandoned theater, a place pad-locked with only memories of happier times,with nothing but performances by phantoms and ghosts, who remember the limelight. The magician Zark is lost in this world, trying to find and reclaim his lost love Lia, a woman, a myth, elusive and beautiful.
You’re sitting, waiting for the show to start; there is a buzz of anticipation and excitement that pulsates in the room. You notice characters dressed in all-white, they fritter amongst the audience, teasing and waving to us. They are dressed in various costumes, a preacher with a spiked beard, a mad scientist with blue goggles, someone singing an aria and a strolling minstrel, all the ghosts of past performances.
Two individuals in white tuxedos, their jackets have incredible long elegant tails, they are seated at the Radio City Music Hall’s “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ; they begin to create the most incredible beautiful music. It is a throbbing bass, speaking to you in haunted melodies of a time long past with mysterious chanting slightly heard in the background.
The curtain rises and the stage is in disarray, sandbags hanging from the rafters, bits and pieces of discarded sets and open empty steamer trunks, all left-over from previous productions. A mysterious box is brought forward, within is a woman dressed in green (Masha Choodu), she produces small bright yellow balls that she begins to juggle. Ms. Choodu adds more and more balls in ever-changing patterns that are accompanied by a syncopation that is created by the balls as she bounces them off various objects.
Then screaming is heard and mayhem ensues as people run about. A man (Dmitry Dvoretskiy) carries a ladder and stands atop an old Grand Piano that is partly covered with a canvas. He climbs the ladder, using only his balance to keep the ladder upright, when he reaches the top he does a handstand. Then a young woman is seen (Victoria Dvoretskiy), when Mr. Dvoretskiy climbs down one side of the ladder Ms. Dvoretskiy is climbing up the other side. Again Mr. Dvoretskiy is only using his balance to control the ladder and the things they do is mind-blowing. Ms. Dvoretskiy does handstands bending her body all sorts of ways and then is given a five foot pole, which she shimmies up and the stands on her head.
Now here is the oddest of the odd. The Pickled Funeral, a woman dives into a fishbowl and she begins to expand and contract, in this distorted reality she regresses to infancy, she grows four arms and her head becomes four-times the size of her body. The fishbowl is moved in a solemn procession across the stage. Her eyes magnified like saucers, she stares out to us and in a lamenting voice of loss sings “welcome to my funeral, come right in”. Behind her the stage is filled with projections of floating eyeballs. Not sure how it fit in with the story-line, but it was fascinating anyway.
Hocus and Pocus appear throughout Zarkana, they resemble a pair of middle-aged clowns that have seen better days, but you cannot get enough of them. They come on pushing a small cart that mysteriously squeaks, they stop it, examine the wheel, have a brief discussion about a remedy and then Hocus produces an oil can and oils all four wheels. They start to move the cart again, still squeaks, more oil. This is repeated till it is discovered that it is not the cart’s wheels, but instead it is Hocus’ knees.
While all this is going on, very discreetly, a man wearing a trench coat and a suitcase in each hand while wearing a backpack calmly walks across the stage on a large ball. He does not stop, does not acknowledge anybody and just slowly proceeds to where he is headed as if he uses a large ball to go everywhere. But he is a mystery; you wonder what is in the suitcases, why is he carrying a backpack, where is he going?
Lia is seen again, always just missing Zark, who seems the show’s ringleader or barker. She is rolled on encased in green snakes and starts to sing. While we focus on her, two large supports are raised from the orchestra pit for the High Wire Act. Two men, Daniel Luis Acosta and Pedro Carrillo, have ridden the apparatus and began the act. It was nerve-rendering, one sits on the wire while the other jumps over him, forward and then backwards. Then one carries the other on his shoulders across the wire, everyone, those one the stage and we in the audience, watching, wondering if they will fall.
The stage becomes flooded with green, green costumed beings with bubbles randomly sized and randomly placed on their bodies. These beings are very animated and appear rolling in Cyr Wheels, aerial hoops are suspended in the air, twirling and spinning. The Cyr Wheels resemble large metal hula hoops, and what they do with them is amazing, rolling as the body is suspended with-in and going in all directions, then almost spinning to the floor only to rebound back up. It is a visual treat, you do not know where to look but it does not matter, for there was something fascinating anywhere you looked.
We focus on a woman as the stage curtain behind her is lowered. She is Erika Chen and she is exquisitely beautiful, she is so beautiful it is almost surreal. A small table appears before her, behind her is a large round screen and what she proceeds to do is magical. Upon the table is blue sand and she begins to create extraordinary images, the Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge and a baby’s face that transforms into an adult woman. There is a serenity here that recalls a certain balance to the controlled mania we had witnessed up to this point.
But the highlight of the evening was Anatoliy Zalevskiy. Appearing from the back of the stage he walks onto a raised white platform and begins to twist and shape his body while standing on his hands or sometimes hand. But it is not what he does, which is fanatical, but how he does it. Seemingly without a bone in his body he moves with the grace of a dancer. He flows in and out of the music with a rare elegance and pulls on the heartstrings with the majesty of expression he is able to capture. He spins on one hand, his body suspended flat-out toes pointed, the other arm dramatically in the air only to land in a wide split second and then propels himself to his feet without the use of his hands. His performance is one of those performances, that when you see it you will never forget.
This is only my second time seeing Cirque Du Soleil. My first was Wintuk, which at the end left me so happy I could have cried. Now Zarkana, which has left me lifted in spirit and soul. It is a marvelously delicious visual treat….and I cannot recommend it enough….Oh, and Zark gets reunited with Lia in the final moments of the show.
Zarkana: Written and directed by François Girard; Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix, artistic guides; Line Tremblay, director of creation; sets and props by Stéphane Roy; costumes by Alan Hranitelj; music by Nick Littlemore; choreography by Debra Brown and Jean-Jacques Pillet; lighting by Alain Lortie; Raymond St-Jean, image content designer; sound by Steven Dubuc.
Zarkana: Cirque Du Soleil
Radio City Music Hall, NYC, Ny
Now playing till September 2.