I concede: it is as impossible to describe with words as it is to believe with your own eyes the dizzying and dazzling acrobatic acts performed by the colorful and thrilling troupe that is Cirque Shanghai, now back in Chicago at Navy Pier for their third year in a row with “Cirque Shanghai: Gold.” Since this type of entertainment defies a critical act (and not that there’s anything to criticize given its universal appeal, high entertainment factor and perfect running time of sixty-five minutes), I instead offer the reader a random array of (hopefully entertaining) thoughts that struck me throughout the performance: 1) It is estimated that there are 450 million bicycles in China. So why twelve Chinese would have to share one of them is beyond me. But it is amazing to watch them try. 2) Throughout several of “Cirque Shanghai”’s unbelievable contorting, nerve-racking plate-spinning and gravity-defying balancing acts I thought ‘Why, what’s the point?’ After all, just because you can balance a dozen wine glasses filled with water on each limb doesn’t mean you have to. Show-offs. 3) Unlike the American and European circus aesthetic, the Chinese one seems closer to the Moscow State Circus of the Russians: beauty never sacrificed for the wow factor. You’ll see what I mean when two couples glide and slice through the Navy Pier sky suspended only by giant silk ribbons—as beautiful as it is breathtaking. 4) Following her controversial Chinese earthquake comments, actress Sharon Stone will probably lose her East Asia Dior contract and need a new project to endorse. So should a future installment of the Cirque series be subtitled “Shanghai of the Stars,” Stone should consider full participation, because nothing says “I’m sorry” to someone you’ve offended like allowing them to balance you precariously atop a twenty-foot tower of chairs. 5) Remember the glitzy show “Dynasty”? “Cirque Shanghai” featured more sequins than the entire run of that popular 1980s series. More dazzling, however, were the moves. 6) Who knows how much the cost of jet fuel will be by Olympics time. If the athletes here are any indication of what Americans will have to compete against in Beijing, we don’t stand a chance. Let’s concede and help the economy by staying home. You can gather that “Cirque Shanghai: Gold” comes highly recommended. And that you should take not just your family and friends, but a chiropractor you love. Top off the evening with dinner in Chinatown, and you have great dinner theater, not to mention the best summer family entertainment money can buy. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
At Navy Pier, 600 East Grand, (312)595-7437. Thu-Fri 2pm & 8pm/Sat 2pm & 6pm & 8pm/Sun 2pm & 4pm. $14.50-$29.50. Through September 1.