Friday, June 22, 2007

what i did for love

i flew to las vegas. i stayed in the underwhelming new york new york hotel. and i spent $130-some to see cirque du soleil's LOVE on monday at the mirage.

it was worth it.

i met up with my old friend doug, who was in vegas for a work conference. we walked to caesar's palace to have dinner at this place called joe's, and just happened to pass the bellagio as the big fountain show was about to go off. so we stopped to watch the waterworks, done to a cheesy rendition of the song "one," from a chorus line. i surprised myself -- and highly amused doug -- by remembering all the words from when i sang it in chorus in junior high.

when the maitre'd at joe's seated us, doug pointed out a waiter and said that man had been his waiter two years before. to which the maitre'd replied, "and he'll be your waiter tonight!" jeff from minneapolis, who even remembered doug, accurately describing where he and his pals had been sitting. (they were drunk and obnoxious, so perhaps the memory was more indelible than most.)

on the way out, doug spotted tim robbins at a nearby table. he claimed the movie star was checking me out, but i highly doubt that. i cannot even say myself that it was tim robbins, as all i saw was the back of his head.

then we dashed to the mirage and found our seats. they were pretty great, although i'm not sure there'd be a bad one. the stage is set up "in the round," but the performance space was actually square-ish -- or, really, since every inch from floor to rafters was used at times, cube-like. the stage was like a living part of the performance, seemingly in constant motion like the dancers: parts of the floor dropping away into black oblivion, other parts sliding open, the recesses at times yielding up performers and pieces of set like gazebos, bandstands, etc.

LOVE is fairly abstract, in that there isn't really a "story." the action shifts according to a cultural/historical timeline that roughly follows the evolution of the beatles' music (give or take). the evening began with a tableau that evoked england during WWII, with children in their beds seeming to represent the young beatles amid a stage teeming with characters and activity. one could say they spotted mr. kite, father mckenzie, eleanor rigby, maybe even billy shears, among others.

the music was all beatles, artfully sliced and diced such that at times the bass line from one song would play under a completely different tune, sound effects were nicked from certain records to create ambient noise, etc. so not all of the numbers were tied to just one specific tune. but sometimes, as with "something" and "while my guitar gently weeps," the song was left to play as it is. the former featured a shirtless male dancer on the floor, and four female dancers in white, attached to wires, and they did this sort of aerial/ground ballet, a rotating pas de deux. he ran toward each woman flying on her wire, mostly out of reach but briefly making contact before always, always being pulled away from him again. it looked cool and was very poignant. for "guitar," two enormous puppets made from panels of wispy fabric danced from the rafters. other things happened on the stage, but what stayed in my mind was those puppets, so ghostly and graceful, swaying and sometimes appearing swelled to bursting with the emotion of george harrison's guitar playing. it was lovely but also very sad. "with every mistake, we must surely be learning" hit me particularly hard.

but a lot of the show was just fun and delightful, that classic cirque combination of humor and pathos. i am not sure it was deep, but it made me think for a long, long time afterward. in fact, the images and sounds are still in my mind. at one point i imagined george and john having a good giggle about it in rock 'n' roll heaven:

"have you seen this, then?"

"ooo, yes, quite ridiculous. i never miss a show! my favorite part is when all the people go into the gift shop afterward and buy $10 refrigerator magnets."

"cool, right? want another bong hit?"

the 90 minutes went by in a blip. and i mean, the time just flew. so much happened in each scene you couldn't really focus on every single movement or bit of business. the emotional intensity of the show came partly from the beatles' music, as well as from the often incredible displays of physical prowess and poetry. songs so timeless and enduring, and familiar, yet at once ancient and fresh. (no matter what aimee mann says.) the genius of LOVE is that it lets you feel whatever emotion comes to you, so there's something very personal about it. as strong and as vivid as the impressions i got were, i'm sure others in the audience felt different things, equally strong and vivid. the visual presentation didn't lock the songs to one interpretation, like a video does. instead it only enhanced the infinite possibilities the beatles represented ... and which they themselves explored.

1 comment:

Doug E. said...

Oh, it was definitely Tim Robbins, my friend. And he *was* checking you out on our way out of Joe's.

Such a great memory that whole night is. Thanks again for making the trip.