Sunday, August 31, 2014
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Review: Cirque du Soleil's QUIDAM

Quidam is one of many Cirque shows, and although Toby Zinman found it diminished from their circus shows of five or ten years ago, there are still some reasons to gasp or murmur "amazing!"

Review: Cirque du Soleil's QUIDAM


By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

Cirque du Soleil, the international circus troupe filled with eerie live music and spectacular feats of human strength and daring, is making a brief stop at the Liacouras Center at Temple University on its national tour. Quidam is one of many Cirque shows, and although it seems diminished from their circus shows I saw five or ten years ago,  including an earlier version of Quidam, there are still some reasons to gasp or  murmur “amazing!”

The show attempts a narrative—a little bored girl at home with her parents is suddenly spirited away to a place of wonder. But the story is really irrelevant, and the very randomness of the events onstage is part of Cirque’s signature surreal charm—a headless man carrying an umbrella, a  parade of people in white masks and white jumpsuits, a woman twirling endlessly in one corner, a man with boxing gloves stalking the edges of the stage.

But the main events are the acrobats, aerialists, rope climbers, rope jumpers, and trapeze fliers, occasionally punctuated by clowns.  The show didn’t really catch fire for me until the second half of the second act with “Statue”—two people of incredible strength balance each others’ body weight in slow motion, followed by “Banquine” a Russian corps of fifteen men and women who fling themselves and each into the air with breathtaking synchronized skill and daring.

There seem to be fewer acts, each with more repetition, so that even when performers are doing something amazing, it isn’t actually interesting. The eye-popping costumes that Cirque du Soleil was famous for—spangles and feathers and bizarre designs—are gone, replaced by much more serviceable outfits, more like those for a gymnastic competition than an exotic pageant.

The circus was more fun, more circus-y, under the Big Top they used to set up on South Broad Street. The Liacouras Center was built for  basketball, and its vast space isn’t really suited to performance since it makes applause almost inaudible and the performers feel too far away.


Cirque du Soleil, Liacouras Center, Temple University at Broad & Cecil B. Moore Sts. Through Nov. 13. Tickets $36 (children) $45 (adults). Information: 800-298-4200 or



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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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