Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Quick Hit Review: Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM

Title : High Bars Picture credit : OSA Images

  • Costume credit : Kym Barrett ©2010 Cirque du Soleil

  • Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM 
    Written and Directed by Robert Lepage
    Director of Creation: Neilson Vignola
    Citi Field

    What's it All About?
    Cirque du Soleil's acrobats and specialty acts converge in a tale that "traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly." The characters evolve from a colossal  turtle shell, which the show's information says is "the symbol of origin for many ancient civilizations."

    Characters in shining earth-tone-colored costumes (Kym Barrett, costume design; Nathalie J. Simard, makeup design), reptilian skin and indigenous native tribe garb are joined by apes and modern humans competing for the love of a mate (including to two muscled guys on a beach who compete for the attentions of a woman -- who turns out to b more buff than they are. The story is told with the help of clowns, and balancing, foot juggling, acrobatics, trapeze art, roller skating and other circus acts (choreography by Jeff Hall), overseen by two hard-to-identify characters: a sort of red-clad ringmaster and a silver-sequined being who drops in from time to time and seems to represent the big bang or the inspiration behind all of the evolution taking place.

    What are the highlights?
    As always, Cirque du Soleil is a wonder to behold and experience. This show contains some of the most skilled specialty acts.

    Hands down, the best part of this presentation, is an oval,  raked part of the set which becomes a number of bodies of water thanks to projection and lighting. A raft makes its way over the top of it and navigates some rapids; swimmers make their way to the edge, then step out of the water in the form of real people. It's really fascinating. 

    The story is fairly easy to follow here (not always the case with Cirque) and the music (composed by Bob and Bill) is vibrant, played by a band conducted by Charles Dennard, Jr. just behind the swamp-like set (Carl Fillion, set and props designer) and sung by two soloists.

    The set. Picture credit : OSA Images

  • Costume credit : Kym Barrett ©2010 Cirque du Soleil

  • What are the Lowlights:
    If you're not a fan of Darwin, this won't be for you. God, and Creation as you know it from the bible doesn't seem to fit in the picture anywhere.

    This show isn't big on the flying and tumbling. This isn't really a "lowlight," but will be disappointing if that's what you are hoping to see.

    The seats are very tiny and snug. If you are a person of size, you'll want to make sure you purchase an aisle seat. If it's rainy, wear weatherproof shoes as puddles collect at the entrances to the big top. Outdoor restroom facilities are chilly -- like the winter weather surrounding them at the moment.

    Other Information:
    Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM plays in Lot C at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, through May 21. For transportation information: Tickets:

    Christians might also like to know:
    -- Scantily clad performers
    -- A clown comments on the size of a male performer's private parts
    -- Evolution Theory as described above

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    Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

    ** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

    Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

    Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

    My Bio

    Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

    Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

    She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

    She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

    Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

    She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

    A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


    All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


    Key to Content Notes:

    God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

    Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

    Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

    Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

    Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

    Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

    Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

    Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

    Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

    Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

    Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

    Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

    Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

    Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

    Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

    Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

    The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

    Reviewing Policy

    I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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