Posted on December 12th, 2007
If you’ve been waiting for the new-style circus to blossom into high art, check out Cirque Éloize’s Rain. If there’s a circus in heaven, and Federico Fellini and Merce Cunningham got together to stage it, this might be the one.
Every time I see Cirque du Soleil or one of its offspring, I’m tantalized by the hints of something beyond. The elaborate sets and costumes and the sketchy story line arouse hope that the show will break through the boundaries of technique and routine to become a new kind of epic.
The show that the Dallas Summer Musicals’ Broadway Contemporary Series opened at the Majestic Theatre on Tuesday doesn’t quite do that. Much more modest in scale, it’s more like modern dance or vaudeville or performance art. But it never lapses into automatic drive; it’s full of imagination and poetry throughout.
Daniele Finzi Pasca wrote and directed this piece, which begins with a spoken prologue about memories of childhood freedom. A later, hugely funny, monologue questions the pretensions of these new circuses, asking why they so pretentiously explore the unconscious only to end in a virtual pratfall.
The Majestic turns out to be a superb place to watch these high-flying trapeze and tumbling acts. That ironically pretentious prologue soon gets a counterpoint – a woman bouncing from stage to proscenium height behind a scrim. It’s a simple enough trick, but seeing the speed and vertiginous motion in such an intimate setting gave me intense butterflies each time the woman defied gravity, only to be pulled back to earth again.
In one number, a man lyrically spins around and around inside a hoop to the strains of strings and accordion (no nasty electronic sounds here). Several bits involve a live pianist: First, some of the strongmen hoist the piano player to a horizontal position, then revolve both player and instrument together. In the second act, the music, lighting and subtle performances turn what might have been conventional trapeze and balancing acts into a waking dream.
“Unearthly beauty touched with wit and charm: Rain is fantastical. And fantastic.”
Through Sunday at the Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm. Runs 130 mins. $15 to $67. Ticketmaster at 214-373-8000 or 972-647-5700, http://www.ticketmaster.com/.