Describing a new Cirque du Soleil show is a little like describing a dream while still half asleep. Talking about ‘Luzia,’ appropriately subtitled “A Waking Dream of Mexico,” is roughly that difficult.
Presented through January 29 under the company’s conspicuously festive big-top tent in the parking lot of San Francisco’s AT&T Park, ‘Luzia,’ directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, is a rain-drenched love-letter to the vast, colorful culture of Mexico. Though dazzling throughout, the luxurious show succeeds especially well in the first of its two spectacular acts, as a luck-challenged traveller—played by the acclaimed clown Eric Fool Koller—tries against odds to get … well, we’re not sure till the end where he’s so desperate to get to, though he clearly would appreciate a nice cool drink of water along the way.
Koller is first seen falling from an airplane, dangling downward past birds and clouds as he descends from the towering heights of the tent, improvising a safe landing after losing his parachute.
Throughout the rest of the show, our plucky wanderer finds himself stumbling in-and-out of various mind-boggling landscapes and experiences, first encountering a stunning Monarch butterfly with enormous puppeteer-powered wings, dance-flying alongside a remarkable mechanical horse, running in slow motion on a series of speeding-and-slowing treadmills.
Then there are the acrobatic hummingbirds, impossibly bouncing their way through a series of ever-rising hoops; a Tarzan-like acrobat dancing in-and-out of a pool of blue water, as a friendly jaguar prowls and frolics on the periphery; a Mexican wrestler, who achieves the ultimate dream of schoolyard children, on a massive swing that, in one heart-stopping moment, actually takes its rider all the way around; there’s a crew of filmmakers who take over the stage to make a movie in which a classic circus strongman climbs higher and higher on stacks of chairs.
I can’t even begin to describe the dancing cacti, but do be warned, because they are as crudely sexy as they are delightfully silly.
Eventually, the show’s amazing sights and stirring sounds – the latter provided by a guitar-playing band of crocodiles and a power-voiced chanteuse – all start to blend and overlap in a kind of uniquely Cirque du Soleil sensory overload.
As stunning as the visuals are, nothing prepares us for the wall of rain that routinely falls across the stage, drenching its performers, which include a team of women dancing, twirling, and spinning inside of enormous hoops, and a pair of break-dancing soccer players who commit act of gravity-defying glee using an ever moving soccer ball.
Then, in one jaw-dropping sequence, that sheet of rain becomes the show itself, at first dividing itself into two, then raining in falling patterns to the left and then the right, and finally transforming itself into a magical canvas, dropping its raindrops in the patterns of fish and birds, butterflies, and other visions.
I know it was done with computer-timed releases of water, but knowing that doesn’t detract from the utter amazement of the effect. Perfectly timed to the beats of pulsing, soul-reaching music, the magnificent rain sequence was easily one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen on stage.
With a rotating, ever changing set by Eugenio Caballero — who won an Oscar for his work on the sublime ‘Pan’s Labyrinth — ‘Luzia’ reaches past dreams and beyond logic to create a world you might not want to leave.
And might just want to go back and experience again.
Luzia runs through January 29 at AT&T Park. Visit CirqueduSoleil.com/luzia for more details.