Here’s the thing about Cirque du Soleil shows: it’s all about the packaging. Yes, the high-flying circus arts feats are astounding, but there’s not a lot of variation on how to perform them. Thus, each new Cirque du Soleil show relies on costumes, sets, and music to create a world worth watching. The group's latest show, Kurios (which runs through March 22 at Marymoor Park) succeeds because of the intricacy of the setting it drops the audience into.
The show begins in a marvelous steampunk realm. Robots wander about as the band plays lodged in the clockwork-like contraption the serves as the show's backdrop. The music sets a great mood, mixing 1930s jazz sounds with dark gypsy Balkan folk for a sound that's festive but with the slightest hint nervous tension. The performance pieces in act one are especially strong: from the opening rhythmic juggling act to the flipping gymnasts who emerge from a massive music box to the aviator-attired man who balances on cylinders (who knew balancing could be weirdly thrilling?). There are also lighter moments, like a comedic invisible circus and a woman who flies through the air contorting in and out of the frame of a fixie bike (which seems like the Northwest fantasy pulled from a Portlandia character; their version of The Dude’s dream sequence in The Big Lebowski).
The second act transitions to an aquatic theme as performers dress in fish costumes, old-timey full body bathing suits, etc. It adds some semblance of context to why the performers are on a large acrobatic net (fish in a net, get it?), but the overall intricacy of the design pales in comparison to the steampunk portion. And while there’s a majesty to the duo act that swings though the air on aerial straps, there’s also the pointlessness of including a segment of hand puppetry.
While there are apparently things the characters are supposed to represent (the descriptions are actually quite amusing because they seem pulled out of thin air), there’s no real plot. Plot isn’t the purpose of a Cirque du Soleil show. The “lead” character is the Seeker, a scientist who basically just serves as a tool to transition between performance pieces and constantly look astounded. It’s just filler for the oohs and ahhhs the acrobats earn. And that’s fine. You don't go to the circus for ethos and pathos.
Cirque du Soleil: Kurios
Thru Mar 22, Marymoor Park, $42–$495