Cirque du Soleil | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Cirque du Soleil

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Visitors to Nouvelle Experience, the new production from the Montreal circus troupe Cirque du Soleil, run the risk of getting carried away--literally. So if you're attending this delightfully flashy mixture of mime theater, dance recital, electronic-jazz concert with stadium-rock lighting, and performance art, keep your eye on the Flounes. You can hardly miss them; outfitted in bizarre and colorful amalgams of medieval, Renaissance, and futuristic fashions, these comic-grotesque hybrids of court jesters and alien insect-people remind us of circuses' roots in the anarchic, improvisational street theater practiced by traveling commedia dell'arte troupes in the 16th and 17th centuries. Even before the houselights come down the Flounes scamper through, around, and over the spectators, teasingly helping themselves to hats, coats, and the occasional human being; small children are especially susceptible to their mischief. (Dont worry--they always bring 'em back alive.) Later, under the bossy bark of their ludicrous "queen," Madame Corporation, their encounters with a baggy-suited human clown frame a procession of more traditional circus entertainments--aerialists, acrobats, and a team of mind- and spine-bending female contortionists--and the show climaxes in a science-fantasy ritual of rebirth that sends the audience out on a buoyant note. Though mostly different from the show Cirque du Soleil brought to Chicago in 1989, Nouvelle Experience is the same in one key respect: no animals--this company's underlying theme is the human condition. At Cityfront Center, through September 29 (McClurg Court and Illinois Street, 902-1500). Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 PM; Fridays, 9:30 PM; Saturdays, 4:30 and 8:30 PM; Sundays, 1 and 5 PM. $12.50-$35.50, $6-$23.50 for children.

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