One warm and sunny Thursday afternoon, my date says he has a surprise for me. Not knowing what to expect, we walk along the waterfront in South Boston. The scenery is lovely as we pass by fancy restaurants and cruise ships. As we head towards the Bank of America Pavilion, I see spirals of blue and yellow circus tents instead of its usual grey dome. A big sign showing masked faces and contorted bodies read “Totem by Cirque du Soleil.” My date tells me we’re here and I stare at him in disbelief. Sure enough, he takes out two tickets and we are escorted to the front row of Section G, which is the end section of the semicircle theater.
The show starts promptly at 4:00PM as a spotlight shines in the center of the stage and drums beat loudly. Acrobats wearing bright blue and green suits do flips and jumps inside what appears to be a giant tortoise shell. Then a man covered in crystals descends from the top. As soon as he lands on the turtle shell, all the amphibian-like creatures jump out of the shell and the tortoise shell is removed.
As the crystal man ascends back up, two crystal women descend to the stage with crystal cloths. They spin each of them on their hands and feet and toss the cloths to each other, all while lying upside down in a chair. Then the crystal people vanish into the sky almost like UFO’s.
The audience returns to Earth as five ladies on unicycles roll onto the stage balancing bowls on their head. Their costumes have patterns of leaves and are very autumn-like as if to portray a harvest. I began to wonder why the bowls on their head were empty but soon enough, they placed one bowl at a time on their right foot and kicked it to the top of their head. Just when I thought their performance of balance couldn’t be more difficult, they took turns kicking bowls to each other as they balanced on a unicycle with one foot.
As the ladies finish sharing their meals on unicycles, a Native American man and woman roller-skate on stage and dance with hula-hoops. They twirl it around their waist and move it up to their necks and eventually to their arms and legs. Then they go on a very small platform shaped like a drum. Here, they spin each other so fast I thought they would fly away like a Frisbee. Their dance reminded the audience how much people have wanted to fly for a long time.
Eventually, ten performers in monkey suits jump and roll around on stage until a man in a business suit joins them. As they continue to jump around, they somehow form a line with the businessman in front, caveman in the middle, and the smallest monkey last in line. They pranced around the stage lined up like the history of evolution. That’s when I realized each act in “Totem” was showing evolution!
As the ten monkeys frolic around the stage, the ringleader announces that the half-hour intermission begins now. The whole time, my date and I stayed in our seats talking about how amazing the first half of the show was.
A clown then comes onstage to announce that intermission is over. As he goofs around on stage, he makes a mess and the ringleader comes out very irate. He takes off his top hat and cape and waves it like a bullfighter. The clown attempts to run through the cape but fails. Perhaps the ringleader was trying to taunt the clown for littering on our beloved planet.
When the ex-ring-leader-now-toreador leads the clown offstage, ten businessmen immediately enter the stage. It’s almost as if the ten monkeys before have evolved into sophisticated creatures. When they all gathered, the businessmen take off their suits to reveal their acrobatic attire and open their briefcases to take out long, metal poles. They work together acrobatically to assemble the poles. Finally, one man reaches the highest point of the pole and we all applaud their great teamwork.
A scientist enters and the stage becomes a laboratory. His assistants tap the beakers in a rhythmic beat and I was impressed at how pleasant the chimes sounded. The scientist has lit-up globes that he juggles and he goes into a giant glass cone. He awes the audience as he glides the globes inside the cone.
After his experiment was over, the most traditional circus act begins. It is the trapeze act, which is the performance I anticipated for most. A man and woman elegantly hang from the air and seduce each other as they intertwine their bodies in midair. The whole time they were telling their love story, I was amazed at how high they were and still doing all those tricks effortlessly.
Once the trapeze artists were lowered to the ground, all the previous performers go on stage and take a bow. I give them a standing ovation, as does the rest of the audience. As my date and I leave the show, we are amongst the crowd of people trying to figure out which part was the best. We finally conclude that each act was great and vital to telling the story of evolution.