Cirque De Soleil- Zarkana; A Review by Shoshana Bachrach

By: Shoshana Bachrach  |  September 12, 2012

World renowned show, Cirque de Soleil: Zarkana tagline, “A fantastically twisted acrobatic extravaganza,” already alludes to its premise of getting lost in a darkly magical, uniquely-Soleil wonderland.

The basic premise of the show’s story is entertaining—a charismatic but temperamental magician on a musical quest. The music is catchy, separating the storyline from the circus and alleviating the sensory overload. And the acts themselves, simple yet fascinating, and often death-defying, had me clutching my seat. Certain acts, like the golden and green clad trapeze artists, looked so effortless and breathtaking, for a second it didn’t seem like what they were doing was difficult at all. The performers were flung into the air and expected to land on a trampoline thinner. From the trampoline, they either soared onto a balance beam, or nearly fell off the “Wheel of Death.” At that point, the audience is shaken back into reality and suddenly we’d all remember how difficult these stunts actually are.

Zarkana entertained, but it didn’t entirely enthrall. I was not completely lost in the fantasy and I did not think the show met my high expectations. Perhaps it was the show’s venue of the classy and enormous Radio City Music Hall that separated the show from its creepy aura. Additionally, the length of the show was disappointing; it was less than an hour and a half, while I had been expecting at least a two hour performance. When the lights turned on, I thought it was the intermission.

The main thing that made me dislike the show was the liberal use of digital effects. The set was created out of three arches onto which various videos were projected. At times this was done to great effect, transforming the stage from a red-tinged mad scientist’s lab to a twisted grove of knotty vines. Other times it just looked cartoonish and out of place—like when a cascade of eyeballs flowed down the backdrop for no apparent reason. Cirque de Soleil is not for the single-task mind; there’s a lot going on at once. As tightrope walkers leapfrogged on an impossibly thin wire, belly dancers shimmied before torches spewing flames in time with the beat, all with a puppet snake ensconced woman singing menacingly in the background. The giant, digital snakes slithering up and down the sides of the main arch that accompanied this were just overkill.

Is Cirque de Soleil a must see show? Zarkana is not. It was enjoyable and entertaining, but if you’re looking for a breathtaking show, go to Broadway. If you’re looking to be enveloped in a circus of mystery and magic, read The Night Circus by Emily Morgenstern. Zarkana won’t blow your mind, but if you’re in the mood for a more artistic take on Barnum and Bailey, it will probably do the trick.