As a clock displays 11:11, a time associated with mysticism and the otherworldly, a train rolls into view followed by a procession of peculiarly dressed people called Curiosistanians who inhabit the imaginary country of Curiosistan. In an attempt to invigorate the imagination of “The Seeker,” an eccentric scientist who is curious about their world, the Curiosistanians break into a lively dance number to big band-style music.
This is the opening number of Cirque du Soleil’s “KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities,” a high-energy, steampunk-inspired show that breaks down the barrier between performance and audience. This is not a show where you can sit passively through its nearly two-and-half-hour runtime. This is show that demands you leave reality at the door and prepare to be swept away into a world of endless possibilities.
Canada-based production company Cirque du Soleil is known for its breathtaking artistry and compelling storytelling, and this production lives up to this expectation. The premise of this show, created by Michel Laprise, involves the Seeker attempting to gain access to another dimension. The Curiosistanians visit him and help him gain access to this world. The set and costume design for this show immediately invoke the idea of the wanderer peering through the haze into a space beyond comprehension, a space that exists on the end of dreams. Opening comedic act Facundo Gimenez describes the show as “imbuing viewers with the energy of the dream.” Gimenez’s laugh-out-loud performance alone was illustrative of this imbued energy as he invited the audience to imagine the inhabitants of an invisible circus and to envision him as a temperamental house cat.
Each of the show’s thirteen acts had a different representation of the “energy of the dream.” Anne Weissbecker’s performance on the aerial bicycle had a quiet, reflective tone, evocative of what she described as the show’s “poetry [created] from the body movement, lighting, and atmosphere.” “The Contortion” had a similar meditative tone as the performers molded into increasingly surprising poses — the hand, a 750-pound fiberglass piece, was hardly just a prop in this performance. In conjunction with the contortion performance, the hand illuminates a narrative about the mechanisms of an artist’s or inventor’s craft. The result was a humanizing portrayal of creativity and invention.
While all the acts enwrapped the audience in this whimsical fantasy world, “Upside Down World,” “Rola Bola,” and “Acro Net” pulled everyone to the edge of their seats — these acts were two significant beats in the narrative arc. “Rola Bola” instilled in viewers the amazement of witnessing flight for the first time. There was a collective intake of breath as the platform began to swing and the fearlessness involved in this act seemed to say “if you surrender to the wind, you can ride it.” “Acro Net,” the first act after the twenty-five minute intermission, transported the audience into the mystical world The Seeker had been in search of. This explosive performance invited viewers to imagine sea and sky joined as a single entity, transforming the narrative landscape into a place yet to be experienced before.
Laprise’s narrative is a compelling exploration of human ingenuity and creativity, reimagining the age of flight as an exodus into the world beyond the one we occupy. The performances, true to Cirque du Soleil’s brand, were spectacular. This is not a show you just watch. Witnessing this performance is an act of submerging oneself in a space in which dream and reality collide. In order to truly appreciate these acts, you must become like The Seeker, and believe that you have the power to pull back the veil between this world and the next.
“KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities” is running now through May 8 at Atlantic Station. For more information about this performance, click here.