On Sunday, we wanted a nicer breakfast than the continental one that the hotel provided, and so went back to Bread and Chocolate. I had cinnamon challah French toast, which was delicious, and Georgie had the ‘very berry’ French toast, which came with fruit sauce. (The Best Western offered cereal, juice, tea or coffee, fruit, bagels, sweet rolls, donuts, toaster waffles, hard boiled eggs, biscuits, and what appeared to be “sausage gravy.” I sampled some of the latter, which tastes (and looks) like warm wallpaper paste with brown bits in it. It’s loathsome.)
Getting to the Cirque venue was a bit of an adventure as it involved taking the Metro all the way to the end of its southernmost line, and then catching a bus to National Harbor, which is a newish marina/condo/hotel/ shopping development. According to the signs at the Metro station, busses were supposed to run every half hour, but, after 40 minutes with no bus, we caught a cab from the nearby stand. The Plateau, where the circus was set up, is right near the highway and the blue and yellow stripes of the big top (the “Grand Chapiteau”) were easily visible. We had the cab drop us off at a shuttle stop, and took that the rest of the way up to the circus tents.
The Cirque du Soleil is nothing if not organized for marketing, and had an extensive refreshment/gift shop setup in place, where we bought a souvenir program. I wasn’t shocked to be charged six dollars for a bottle of water, but was very pleasantly surprised to find that it came in a reusable stainless steel bottle with the Cirque logo.
The theme of the OVO production is ‘the world of insects’, so music and costumes were done with insect styles in mind, which we found very creative and interesting. Like all Cirque shows, there are no animal acts, so the performances run to feats of strength, balance, juggling, acrobatics, and clowning, but that is not a limitation, as they expand the limits of what human beings can do. They also bring great innovation to their art. One would have thought that not much new could be done with the venerable trampoline act, for example, but it becomes a new thing when you add new high-tech materials and a climbing wall to bounce off, cling onto, and clamber across, not to mention the Cirque’s trademark precision and choreography. The same can be said for the fixed trapeze act, the slack wire act, and the foot juggling, wherein the jugglers end up juggling one another.
(One wonders how they put these shows together. With their numerous shows, Cirque de Soleil must be the largest employer of circus performers in the world, and presumably can have their pick of performers, but I envisage things like this--.
PHONE: Ring, ring!
M. Le Jongleur: Hallo!
Cirque: Hello, Monsieur Le Jongleur, this is Cirque de Soleil calling. We’d like you to be in our new show.
M. Le Jongleur: Cette marvellieuse! I am very interested.
Cirque: Of course, you know, in our productions, you would have to spot and shift props for the other performers.
M. Le Jongleur: Oui, that is no problem.
Cirque: And everyone has to dance (more or less).
M. Le Jongleur: Oh, I can dance (more or less).
Cirque: And for this show, you will have to wear a bug suit.
M. Le Jongleur: ---
Cirque: Hallo? )
The show opens with the stage mostly filled by a huge luminous egg, which various members of the cast crawl around and seem to worship. Getting this offstage so that the show can commence is one of the niftiest effects of the program. We are then introduced to the clowns who act in the place of the conventional ringmaster, and the show is on. Most of the performers have specific, if fanciful, insect denominations: the foot jugglers are “ants”, the trapeze artists “fleas”, and the trampoline bouncers “crickets” and so on, but the head clown resembles nothing so much as the “highly magnified woggle-bug” from L. Frank Baum and does not have a classification.
A blue bug, the “stranger” enters, carrying another egg as large as he is, which pretty speedily gets stolen from him and becomes a Looney Toon style object of desire, changing hands several times as a running gag throughout the performance. All of the acts were astonishing and beautiful, although this show is a bit smaller scaled and not as jaw-dropping as some we have seen. The second act clowning interval involving audience members was cute and did not run over long.
After the show, we made shuttle, bus, and Metro connections back into town with no problems. We were bemused to note, going and coming, the presence of a number of “Tea Partiers” going to and coming from a 9/12 tax protest rally on the Mall. (The Mall had evidently been reserved in advance for 9/11 for a National Black Women’s Family Reunion, which seemed like a very nice event from what we saw of it.) From what I was able to observe, the average attendee for the tax protest was white, over 50 if not over 60, reasonably well off, and, interestingly, in good health. Given the age demographic, I would have expected to see at least a few canes, walkers, or wheelchairs, but I saw none. Which leads me to believe that the average tax protester IS actually sufficiently fortunately situated that taxes can actually be their main worry—as opposed to poverty, unemployment, or health care, which have a lot more moment for a lot more people. I suppose their concerns are real to them, but I don’t expect a majority of Americans share those particular priorities. They all seemed like nice enough people, despite being festooned with dissatisfied slogans, but I do believe that most people are basically decent (and besides, we didn't try to talk politics with any of them--).
We got dinner at a hole-in-the-wall “kabob shop” near the hotel, which was good, fast, cheap, and authentically spiced. After that, we went back to our hotel, got most of our packing done, and settled in to watch “Masterpiece Mystery” before going to bed.
Our flight back to Milwaukee Monday morning was at the civilized hour of 11:00AM, and we had no problems getting to the airport and had a decent flight home, made better by the fact that this one actually had the Midwest chocolate chip cookies.
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