Luzia's Mexican fever dream rekindles Cirque du Soleil magic on a more intimate scale

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      A Cirque du Soleil production. At the Grand Chapiteau at Concord Pacific Place on Thursday, October 3. Continues until December 29

      Cirque du Soleil is known for grand spectacle, but often what makes its surreal, retro-Mexico-themed Luzia work so well is its ability to connect on an intimate, low-tech level.

      At one moment, a single virtuoso maraca player holds the audience in his spell. At another, a singer’s dress spontaneously sprouts gorgeous red flowers. And just wait till you see Alexey Goloborodko, known as the most flexible person on the planet, fold himself into impossible human origami, alone on a revolving platform; instead of dazzling high-tech lights, he’s surrounded by hundreds of flickering candles rotating on their own axis.

      In its dream logic and approach, Luzia feels more akin to recent Cirque shows like Totem than to the stage-filling extravaganzas of Varekai or Alegría. It ain’t Vegas, baby, but that’s not a bad thing; even for those experiencing new-circus fatigue, Luzia holds charms, not least in that it seems very much at home in the big tent (an improvement on Cirque’s spate of stadium-set performances).

      It helps that our guide through all this is the artist best known as Fool Koller—a lanky goof prone to flash rages, hissy fits, and self-flagellation. This rubberfaced loser is simply too recognizably human for the word clown in any circus sense.

      Even acts like a tightrope walk become more about humble human relationships: here, the acrobat walks and rolls along an eye-level wire to impress the ’50s-frocked girl he’s brought to an outdoor café. A gravity-defying head-stand routine becomes a beachside sendup of 1920s Mexican cinema, complete with a preening, handlebar-mustachioed lifeguard who works a crowd of bathing-capped beauties.

      Throughout, the choreography shows the sophistication and artistry that the Quebec-based company has honed over decades, from Goloborodko’s hauntingly balletic feats to the fluid magic of the pole and Cyr-wheel acts.

      It’s not that there aren’t countless awe-inducing moments; it’s just that they’re framed in a sort of Kahlo-Rivera-style delirium that avoids Mexican cliché. In this wild hallucination, humans dressed in their summer best cavort around wearing silver fish heads and pointed marlin-spear hats, and amid the artfully animated puppets, a giant beetle might skitter across the floor. Elsewhere, a trio of cacti stumbles across the back of the stage. One of the mindblowers is the massive curtain of falling rain at centre stage, released in carefully cued cascades in the shape of flowers, animals, and other motifs.

      Still, some of the biggest gasps come courtesy of the finale number, which finds giant Russian swings heaving over the audience and sending acrobats flying perilously into the air; the stage rotates, changing our perspective on the mayhem from all angles.

      You can feel a new energy in every timeworn act; the best example is the opening hoop-diving routine, performed by flitty pink and purple birds on a huge treadmill, set on that turntable, and making every ring a moving target. Cirque is upping the artistic ante—and after 35 years in the business, that may ultimately be its biggest feat.