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Friday, April 11, 2008
What would Krusty think?
I like Cirque du Soleil.
There, I said it. If you've ever wondered who pays real cash money to see something with a loose plotline about a clown ascending to the afterlife, you're looking right at one. Or at least the words of one. I've now seen two Cirque shows and I'll do it again, dammit.
I think it's for the same reason I'll sit through any Hollywood blockbuster, no matter how lame and Michael Bay-y. I like spectacle, I like explosions and I think sitting through over two hours of a French Canadian death circus is a pleasant way to pass a Thursday night in April.
Cirque's traveling show Corteo is in town and I paid to see it. Every few years the Cirque folk come to Portland and set up a gigantic yellow and blue circus tent in a vacant spot wedged between the South Waterfront and the Marquam Bridge, leaving me to wonder things like how do they keep it heated and where do the performers hang out during their off hours.
I never figured out the answers to these questions but Corteo did allow me the opportunity to watch a clown morosely carry a candelabra across a tightrope while hanging upside down. I also got to watch members of a liberal town audience contend with a midget standing on their heads. At one point, Coreteo's central character, an ailing clown named Mauro, wanders out into the ring with a small woman attached to several silver balloons. He then flings her out of the ring, presenting spectators with the challenge of getting her back into to it. I overheard lots of awkward laughter as she stepped on shoulders and giggled like a preschooler all hepped up on Coco Puffs. I probably wasn't the only one there thinking, "Er, is this ok? Are we somehow exploiting this woman? Are the PC gods cool with something like this?"
In terms of spectacle, the first half of the show is mesmerizing. The two rows of tourists behind me ate it up but the second half, well, it bored us all to tears. I went with my parents and the two of them were nodding off as the show quickly succumbed to way two many trapeze acts and a cringe-worthy "Punch and Judy" reenactment of Romeo and Juliet. The tourists talked through the second half while loudly munching on a neverending supply of popcorn. A group of five to our right didn't even bother to return after the encore. By the time Morteo finally rode a bicycle over the ring and off to heaven people were ducking for the exits.
Corteo's a far cry from Ka, a Cirque show I saw in Las Vegas a few years ago. Ka benefits from having a theater built exclusively for the production and a multi-million dollar stage powered by hydraulics. There's only so much you can do under a big top set up next to a freeway. Still, Corteo should have spread out some of its wonders into that second half slog.