Aug 222007

Last week, Paul and I visited his parents, brother, sister-in-law, and niece in Los Angeles. It was a pleasant and easy time, plus I got two to three hours of dissertation work done every day. So that worked out fabulously well.

In the middle of the week, we went with Paul’s parents to Las Vegas for three days. (Happily, I came out $60 ahead on video poker!) The much-anticipated event of the trip was the Cirque de Soleil “O” show. (That’s the one at the Bellagio performed over water.) Even though it has been running for a few years, it’s still enormously popular. We saw a substantial line of people waiting in the “standby” line in the hopes of buying the rather expensive tickets — on a Wednesday night! A few years ago, Paul and I saw — and very much enjoyed — Cirque de Soleil’s “Mystere.” So we were expecting a good time.

Much to my dismay, the production was a postmodernist nightmare. The stage was often crowded with random runnings-around by meaningless people in costume, to the point that you missed the introduction of the actual acrobatic act or were distracted from it. Many of the costumes and props seemed to have some substantial meaning (e.g. brides and grooms, 18th century servants) but that meaning was utterly unclear, not to mention unconnected to the activities of the acrobats. (In contrast, and perfectly fine, were the colorful costumes intended to highlight the acrobat and his/her movements.) No integrating theme in these costumes and props could be discerned: it was just a jumbled bunch of unconnected threads.

The worse moment was when they brought the stage hands out for display. Let me explain how that worked. The vast tank of water was not always the surface of the performance. A floor could be raised to the surface to create a totally solid platform — or a platform under a few inches or feet of water. (That was very cool, technically speaking.) Also, the performers were helped while underwater by stage hands in scuba gear, i.e. in fins, wet suits, tanks, and regulators. (I know that from a bit of a television special I watched a few years ago.) So at one point, they raised the floor — and raised about four stage hands with it. They flopped around feebly like fish out of water. It was bizarre and incomprehensible, except as an expression of the postmodernist ideal of breaking the “barrier” between audience and production. Pathetically enough, that was just one of the distractions during some act that I can no longer remember.

Even the acrobatics of “O” seemed less impressive than those of “Mystere,” but I can’t say for certain. I might have simply been too distracted by all the goings-on. That would be far worse in a way, undoubtedly. The performers deserved better, namely production that focused the audience on their daring and dangerous stunts rather than on the unicyclist whizzing across the front of the stage.

So I definitely do not recommend wasting your money on “O” — unless you actually enjoy postmodernist nightmares.

Happily, we very much enjoyed a far better show for far cheaper: The Mac King Show. It’s an afternoon comedy-magic show at Harrah’s. The magic was delightful, the comedy was funny, and it only cost $10. That I can recommend without reservation!

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