Like a vaudeville carnival troupe sprung from a Terry Gilliam fantasy, the mystifying, gravity-defying, and in some cases, elastic cast of Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities bring exotic whimsy to classic circus acts.
Master jugglers, amazing contortionists, and silent comedians command the stage while intrepid balancers, pole dancers, and trapeze artists vault and soar above it.
The impressive Kurios acrobatics and production value deliver on the caliber of talent and artistry the audience expects from Cirque du Soleil.
Beyond what’s expected, the live performers, musicians, and one indefatigable singer are joined by a menagerie of quirky robots, doo-hickeys, and assorted mechanical (and puppeted) “curiosities” purportedly born from the mind of mad inventor, the Seeker.
He frames this steampunk fantasia, issuing forth inventions from his Cabinet of Curiosities between the feats of derring-do. His bots, called the Kurios, toddle around on their own (thanks to performers inside) or transport his eccentric troupe — including one elegantly tiny mademoiselle — in and out of the center ring.
The Seeker is surrounded by a bevy of bizarre characters with their own storylines, like graceful Klara, adorned in a skirt of rings, like a dancing planet.
Apparently, she directs her rings to and fro to receive alpha waves, “and symbolizes our obsession with telecommunications” — not that any of that matters while you’re thrilling to the sight of a guy balanced on a tower of balls of various sizes.
The Age of Discovery-meets-sideshow spirit is enchanting, though, even if the intricate backstories and time/space travel scenarios don’t fascinate as much as the daredevil stunts.
Some of those stunts and skills are more thrilling than others.
The leaping Acro-Net scene, featuring performers colorfully garbed as sea creatures bouncing insanely high, and in tight formations, on a trampoline net, should drop the jaws of kids of all ages.
The lithe bicyclist who swings in the air on her bike like a trapeze is charming, but might not dazzle like the Acro-Net, or the dude who swings, slides, flips, and drops on a pole, stories above the stage.
Dapperly dressed and looking unbothered even as he free-falls headfirst with only his quick-gripping legs to arrest his dive, he’s a virtuoso showman among a troupe full of class acts.
Perhaps more exciting than the Seeker’s crafty inventions is the inventiveness put forth to create and execute such exhilarating performances as the pole-dancer’s, and the show’s Upside Down World.
In that suspenseful scene, an uber-focused performer balances by a limb on the back of a chair, then another, then another, ever higher until he meets a mirror image balancing downward from the ceiling.
The collective sense of awe and wonder sparked by seeing the two meet in the middle could light up the whole Big Top — which, thankfully, for when the world’s right-side-up again, sits just steps around the block from the Tyson’s Corner Metro Station.
Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities runs to Sept. 25 under the Big Top at Tysons II, 8025 Galleria Drive, Tysons, Va. Visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/kurios.