- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 14, 2000


Cirque du Soleil's "Dralion" offers only one ring of activity. But that ring bursts with so much acrobatic splendor it forces the viewer to make some visual compromises.
Where should one feast his eyes? It's an orgy of excess that quickly sates the senses.
Such is faint criticism when considering the wonders of "Dralion," the latest production from Cirque du Soleil, playing through Nov. 19 at the Corporate Office Centre at Tysons II in McLean.
Buoyed by a trio of neoclowns, the performance supplies a sublime first act, a slab of grand entertainment seemingly impossible to top. The second act proves this is the case, though it, too, provides its own delectations.
Before the show, the clowns roam amid the patrons, creating a theater of the uncomfortable by alternately stalking and surprising them. The effects are comic, yet they also prepare viewers for the unorthodox circus show to come.
"Dralion" trots out its minimal thematic structure in its opening moments, a tribute to the four elements — air, water, fire and earth. But the bulk of the show quickly devolves into a skein of "Can you top this?" maneuvers that defies narrative cohesion.
Just as confusing is the show's cultural hodgepodge. The music, a hard-charging score by Violaine Corradi, explodes with a hybrid of international influences. The music accentuates the stage antics, except when it briefly wavers into modern techno riffs.
Performers aren't spared the cultural Cuisinart. They trot across the stage in garb befitting a half-dozen nations, from African tribal gear to Indian accouterments.
A more tangible story structure might have lent the evening the sense of grandeur the hard-working acrobats deserved — not to mention a unifying element to underscore the bank of gleaming lights and metallic accents illuminating the stage.
Instead, viewers are left with the clown triumvirate, a recurring gaggle of goofballs who combine crackerjack slapstick with nuanced clowning.
The trio provides more than just able comic relief. The clowns grant the audience a welcome pause in between the feats of fantastic grace and agility.
Among the evening's wonders are a ballet atop light bulbs and a stunning set of leaps through unforgivingly narrow hoops.
Perhaps the least physical part of the show, Viktor Kee's juggling routine, proved the night's most arresting memory. Mr. Kee turns five, then six, ordinary balls into a showcase of his mastery of his physical form. It's a simple, sensational moment.
The marvels of balance and fitness never wear out their welcome, as each segment's length clocks in in manageable bursts.
For all its athletic grace, though, the performance comes off as far from perfect. Several obvious miscues peppered the show, though the performers all recovered quickly. The ever-present wires, which kept many an acrobat aloft, proved a bit too helpful. The thrill of the circus depends upon the sense of menace facing the acrobats.
The clowns dashed salt in the performers' wounds by mocking their physical feats toward the show's end, deconstructing the preceding wonders with candid hilarity. The spoof shattered the night's spell, like peering at the all powerful Oz from behind the curtain.
Quibbles aside, an evening under Cirque du Soleil's blue-and-yellow big top provides the brand of don't-blink entertainment that cemented the troupe's reputation. In that regard, "Dralion" doesn't disappoint.
WHAT: Cirque du Soleil's "Dralion"WHERE: Corporate Office Centre at Tysons II, McLeanWHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 5 and 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 19. No performances Oct. 31 and Nov. 14th.TICKETS: $34 to $55 for adults, $23.75 to $38.50 for children and $30.50 to $49.50 weekdays only for students ages 13 to 17 and senior citizens.PHONE: 800/678-5440 or cirquedusoleil.com or admission.com.

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