“Cirkopolis,” the big summer show at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, may have you eyeballing your office for a prime spot to take a flying leap from desk to desk.
You will admire the infectious agility and antics of the cast of 12, who may inspire a desire to work out more in a vague hope you can someday do something this athletic. Alas, that’s the primary lasting impression of Cirque Éloize’s “Cirkopolis,” a disappointment in comparison to some of the Arsht’s imaginative and cleverly staged summer shows like last year’s “Lookinglass Alice” or “Fuerza Bruta” in 2009. The bleak, monotonous, 85-minute “Cirkopolis,” performed on the Ziff Ballet Opera House’s main stage, is missing the extra in extravaganza.
The show takes its inspiration from the movies of Fritz Lang (“Metropolis”) and Terry Gilliam (“Brazil”), with noirish visuals and a theme that set an oppressive tone and sporadically send shafts of light and color outward as characters find joy. The presentation, which uses effective video projections that can induce vertigo, unfolds in a cold, gray office building in a nameless city. The room is populated by desk-bound worker drones who face soul crushing tasks day in and day out — they stamp a stack of papers, repeat, stamp some more until the papers fall to the floor.
The stark lighting and severe images move the miniscule plot along as they change to accommodate characters who escape their dull lives through an amalgam of circus acrobatics, modern dance and theater.
You may come away talking about some memorable aspects of the show. The Montreal-based company offers up two men who do a headstand — on each other’s heads. You probably haven’t seen that feat before. Arata Urawa mesmerizes with his diabolo, a juggling toy of two sticks linked by string to toss a spool upward. As his act progresses, he adds spools and sends them aloft in graceful arcs. Pretty.
Micah Ellinger, Émilie Fournier, Timothy Fyffe and the other hand-to-hand acrobats, jugglers and teeterboard marvels elicit the whispered did-you-see-that? from your seat mates — partly because no one is working with a net here. Fall, and you fall hard on the hardwood stage floor. The way the cast shimmies up a Chinese pole without safety ropes is eye-catching and among the many ta-dah moments “Cirkopolis” delivers.
Perhaps too many, however: The stunts, even a momentarily bewitching Cyr-wheel performance by Sarah Lett, reach a point where they become repetitive and numbing. These are skilled athletic artisans, clearly trained by experts from prestigious schools like École nationale de cirque in Montreal. Great. But we get it. Where can we eat after the show?
Joel Baker, as the office drone/clown, romances an imaginary woman via a pas de deux with a dress hanging from a coat rack as an original bland tune plays. The act is charming for a bit until it goes on several beats too long and you realize there’s no payoff. Why not have a real woman materialize at the end of his routine? These Cirque-type shows (no relation to Cirque du Soleil) trade on magical sight tricks so that wouldn’t be asking too much.
Directors Jeannot Painchaud and Dave St-Pierre keep the cast in perpetual motion to combat the stasis that descends on “Cirkopolis” so the show isn’t a complete bust. You might even fantasize a visit to this office for a spin on the Cyr-wheel or a walk up the Chinese pole. But a 40-hour work week here would feel interminable.
If you go
What: Cirque Éloize’s ‘Cirkopolis’
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, with 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday matinee shows, through July 31
Where: Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Tickets: $49, $69, $89
Information: 305-949-6722 or www.arshtcenter.org