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 www.cirquedusoleil.com/quidam