You walk into the theater and are confronted with wrought, industrial-looking sets that frame the stage. Performers in elaborate garb survey the audience and casually drop 30 feet, then rebound on a bungee. The air is charged, the stage is filling with fog, and the show is about to begin.
Welcome to “KA” by Cirque du Soleil.
For Cirque, this particular show represents a step in a more tangible direction. A clear storyline leads the audience into the depths of the show and both featured characters and peripheral roles are easier to relate to than, say, enormous inflatable snails. A short monologue at the beginning of the show introduces two Imperial twins who, throughout the show, will face trials and tribulations in order to fulfill their shared fate.
The stage is itself a study in the unexpected, which is a common theme in Cirque shows. The central platform transforms from a stationary plane to a beach, a battleground and a plunging ship, allowing for an unprecedented dynamism that exemplifies the other-worldliness of “KA.” A hut seen midway through transforms seamlessly into an airborne craft that traverses the space with a soundless, serene soar, and a beach scene is usurped when the platform tips and sends a cascade of sand tumbling down.
The show is also not devoid of humor; the seriousness of the Imperial twins’ story is offset by clown-like characters with a European vibe. A couple of mimes in the beginning bumble through a series of shenanigans to remind audience members to silence their cellphones, and one of the most memorable scenes in the show involves a human-sized centipede, crab, starfish and turtle.
The twins perform a delightful act of shadow puppetry toward the beginning of the show, deftly manipulating their own and each other’s hands. This swirl of light-heartedness brightens “KA” and keep the overall tone from becoming too serious.
The physicality of each of the performers is exemplary. This is combined with the efforts of visionary Robert Lepage, the director of “KA,” and the results are beyond what an average person would even conceive. Martial arts are mixed with hybrids of dance, aerial work and abstract movement that conveys emotion commendably.
A pinnacle of impossibility is showcased when the stage, tipped and rotating, is studded with points around which performers can pivot. A battle scene commences, with characters sliding perilously close to the platform’s edges before snagging an outcropping and hurtling in a different direction. “Jaw on floor” is an understatement at that point.
A pantheon of aerialists twirling around gargantuan bamboo-like stalks, a lyrical baton act to emotional strings, and fliers zooming around the theater seals the deal with a signature Cirque flourish.The effect is a stunning, pleasantly mind-bending foray into a perfectly three-dimensional alternate world. If this sounds like a world you’re interested in exploring, find more information here.