Cirque du Soleil’s latest extravaganza, Luzia, draws on a Mexican theme for its storyline, but in a way that proves more accessible than some of the earlier productions. It’s subtitled “A Waking Dream of Mexico,” and under that guise it presents the feats of strength, agility and clowning with less obligation to a plot that can feel murky. An announcer sets it all up: he is a pilot of Flight 2016 to Mexico; the audience is in the passenger seats; and as the plane takes off, the fliers are meant to relax and doze into an in-flight fantasia.
Unlike Cirque’s darker entries—Kurios, for instance—the visuals for Luzia are brightly colored. Eugenio Caballero’s sets and Giovanna Buzzi’s costumes are eye-popping and often breathtaking. A massive disk that takes on colors from shimmering copper to kaleidoscopic hues suggests an ancient Aztec symbol. The visuals are enhanced by composer Simon Carpentier’s bouncy score featuring Latin rhythms.
The dream begins with a tall clown (Eric Fool Koller) wafting down from the rafters on a parachute. He is interrupted by some gulls and ditches his parachute pack, but not before bringing out an umbrella. Just after he lands, his backpack falls with a thud nearby. He has landed on a huge turntable of concentric circles of marigolds, bisected by a treadmill. He spots a big key, like those used to wind clocks. He goes up to it and turns it, and suddenly a young woman with butterfly wings enters the treadmill, running from a silver-armored horse (a nod to conquistadors) that gallops behind her on the treadmill as the whole stage rotates.
With her costumes, Buzzi creates animals associated with Mexico—in addition to butterflies, a jaguar, a cockroach, an armadillo and an iguana. There are also three comical cacti at one point. Indeed, there is consistent comedy thanks to Koller, and it feels more integrated than in other Cirque editions. He eagerly bonds with the audience, at one point motioning for hoots from two sides that he pits against each other, directing each with a whistle and gesticulations.
The artistry of the designers receives heavy emphasis in the Luzia edition—there’s a segment about filmmaking that has a director with a megaphone on a Fellini-esque set by the ocean, where the lifeguard is dressed in geometric spangles.
The physical acts are typically impressive. It’s possible that a regular visitor to Cirque shows won’t find one that quite forces the heart into the throat, but there are exceptional offerings nonetheless.
They include Benjamin Courtenay, attaching himself to a rope and twirling through a rainstorm and soaring in the air, upright and inverted. (The rain recurs throughout, evoking the downpours of Mexico).
Marta and Devin Henderson (siblings), Maya Kesselman and Dominic Cruz are among hoop divers who perform on a treadmill, jumping through stacked hoops in tandem, higher and higher. It’s not easy, as a couple missed hoop jumps showed. But one performer salvaged victory from defeat: having missed the same jump twice, he dropped to the floor to do push-ups as penance—a nice touch.
There’s a pretty impressive juggler, too: Rudolf Janecek, although on the night I attended he missed a few catches. One feels that the members of Luzia are a young troupe—none of them is given named credit in the Luzia press releases, although YouTube videos online help identify who’s who.
None of the acts are routine, but two are breathtaking: muscleman Ugo Laffolay, whose makeup includes a black mustache, balances on devices that resemble bathroom plungers, piling them higher and higher, which makes them more and more unstable. And devices known as Russian swings find multiple acrobats jumping from one swing high above the stage and landing on the other—precision timing is required to make the leap between them. Less dangerous but no less astounding is contortionist Aleksei Goloborodko, who appears to be double-jointed or triple-jointed, or just 90 percent rubber: he is extraordinary, even if his cheek-to-thigh contortions carry the strange vibe of a geek in a carnival sideshow.
Cirque du Soleil, founded in 1984, has staked its tent at Citi Field on this visit, and it’s worth the trip there to see an aesthetically impressive production.
Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia plays through June 9 at Citi Field. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday; matinees are at 4 p.m. Saturday and at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday. The Big Top entrance is near Gate 8 at Citi Field (123-01 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing Meadows). Citi Field is accessible by the 7 train at Mets-Willets Point station. If you are driving, be aware that there is a $25 parking fee for all Citi Field events. For tickets and more information, visit cirquedusoleil.com.