Even if you are not a fan of the trendy Cirque du Soleil shows—and I admit that past incarnations have more often than not left me in a state of indifference—the current touring show called “Corteo” is a truly unique experience that you will not want to miss. Instead of the usual quirky music and acrobatics merely for their own mundane sake, “Corteo” supplies a brilliantly imaginative and macabre premise that provides overall motivation and cohesion for its unusual antics: a clown dreaming of his own funeral cortege, or “corteo” in Italian. Why Italian? The debt to Fellini is obvious, but there is an even larger debt to French magician and filmmaker Georges Méliès, the first to recognize the cinematic potential for fantasy more than a century ago in some of the first films ever made. But what Méliès accomplished with stop-motion, dissolves, double exposures and the like, “Corteo” is able to approximate in real time and space via state-of-the-art stagecraft. From the beginning, it is clear we are in a topsy-turvy dreamlike world where the clown is asleep in his bed dreaming of winged angels in white floating overhead—literally—and a procession of his unusually proportioned circus colleagues are doing their best to pay their respects, but these are circus performers, after all, and it isn’t long before the clown is floating around his own room while his bed multiplies and becomes a trampoline for his friends. The genius of this premise is that the clown becomes a surreal host who often tries with varying degrees of success to join in the dazzling acts, which consistently follow the conventions of his dreamlike imagination—sometimes in disembodied and phantom-like forms—in addition to circus conventions. “Corteo” never loses its ability to completely transport us to another world, even when we are invited to reach out and propel a miniature balloon-clutching acrobat floating over us, and its imagery and playfulness in the face of death itself is a journey not likely to soon be forgotten. (Dennis Polkow)
This production is now closed.