By Wayne Harada
“Quidam,” Cirque du Soleil’s latest spectacle playing daily (except Monday) through Oct. 14 at the Blaisdell Arena, is a quenching refreshment for those seeking spectacle with substance.
Though dark and brooding, it’s imaginative and inventive; its vision is global, tapping a variety of specialty acts; it's a circus, yes, but without convention or that old-fashioned ingredient, sawdust.
Instead, this is a hard-top, high-energy, mythical and mystical journey, perhaps a skosh quixotic for some who seek and can't find deep meaning in its visual content.
So forget logic or explanation; just enjoy the visual and aural feast.
A young girl, Zoe, has lost the meaning of life, partly because of her distant parents; she finds solace in the dream-like wonders of characters she meets in the indescribable realm of “Quidam.”
The folks in this world don’t have specific names, but they bring a parcel of enchantment, wonderment and artistry — cloaked in costumes that often look like HazMat whites or SEAL-team squad descending into a scene with undetermined danger or delight; there are painted faces sometimes coiffed in Halloween hues; gymnasts and aerialists defy or redefine logic and test the power of muscle and concentration; and, yes, there's an occasional clown, but he doesn't have a red nose or supersized shoes.
“Quidam” is all about individual artistry corralled in a cavernous space that serves as a blank canvas waiting to be painted. The hues are derived from what you personally see.
A telepheric (telepherique, in the French vernacular) “set” — five aluminum arches, housing conveyors that transport performers or props from backstage to front-and-center (or, above and dangling) focus — gives “Quidam” an industrial feel. Add strings of lights — six of ‘em — and you get a hint of yesteryear’s canvas tenting with bulb brighteners.
The expansive stage is an aluminum wonder, covered with rubber and boasting 200,000 unseen holes, capable of providing under-floor illumination for spectacular effects when coupled with the battery of lights above ground. Holes, too, enable stuff to be stuck into the floor; the central “ring,” if you will, also ratings like a deejay’s turntable (if, in a theatrical sense, the spinner from official “Les Miserables” stage spectacles). Yes, technology also stars — with the talent.
And about the troupers: more than 50 are seen in various shapes and forms (another 50 are musicians or technicians to make the magic all happen). So this is a complex web of awesomeness.
Most riveting and requiring dynamic concentration (not to forget human muscular power): the pale duo in the posing statues piece, in Act II. A gent and lady move deliberately slowly, balance her body on his (neck to neck back to back), with almost no hand-holding; they shift positions at a snail's pace and he winds up doing a handstand, with her body weight upon hers, in this one-arm tactic.
Most popular and fun: theskipping rope bunch, in solo, duo and ensemble forms, who bring the kid-type jumping rope game to new heights, with uncanny combinations: rotating jumper, moving down a line of folks, each one taking turn at jumping, never once snarling the rope; solo skippers jumping into the antics of others; all with tempos varying, from slo-mo to full skip.
Most inter-active: the clown who resorts to vaudevillean shticks, best displayed with audience members (four) hauled from the audience, to depict poseurs in an old-fashioned movie shoot, with a clapper due (who “claps” those black-and-white scene indicators for filming) to a couple (a he, a she) caught by her guy (coming home, not expecting a liaison) ... mostly in mime and physical action.
Most familiar and cultural: The four women in a demonstration of the Diablo, the Chinese yo-yo; they complement each other with turns and spins, making their spools dance off cords and fall back in sync with choreography.
Most appealing: the German wheel, where a gent becomes the spokes of an oversized wheel with arms and legs stretched, spinning and turning, twisting and turning, with momentum depending on his moves — and watch how he pulls back his fingers, in swift and reactive moves, just when his fingers are about to touch the ground.
There are many other ooh-and-ahh moments, including the Spanish web aerialists who dangle from ropes above the performing stage; the Banquine gang of about 15, who jump and turn and form human pyramids, with one jumping onto another till as many as four are stacked, with nary a spill; the woman aerialist, who uses drapes of silk red fabric, to intertwine her legs, body and arms — without the benefit of a net.
Other folks zip in and out with unexpected surprise — an airplane man (you’ll recognize his wing span), the target man (OK, not that Target, but one with a wiggly circle instead), the circus ringmaster named John.
Bodies move in peculiar cadence, sometimes forward, sometimes backward, sometimes in a floor roll-and-tumble. And because there’s crawl space, sometimes there are entrances and exits via a trap door on the main floor.
Than again, this is Cirque. Nothing is ordinary; everything is extraordinary.
Go see for yourself.
A Cirque du Soleil production
Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5, 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6, 5 p.m. Oct. 7; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9 through 12; 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13; and 5 p.m. Oct. 14
Tickets: $40 to $100
Reservations: 800-745-3000, cirquedusoleil.com/quidam