I have raked Zachary Woolfe over the coals from time to time for ridiculous things he has said in the Times - Margaret isn't killing opera any time soon - but here's something he got right: what the Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil production of KA should have, could have, told the Metropolitan Opera about Robert Lepage. In a word, everything. Everything they needed to know about his style, production values, and priorities.
How do I know this? I was in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago for a short visit with relatives. My uncle, who knows everybody in the theatrical world, got us comp tickets for KA. This made sense because we were staying in the MGM Grand, where the show runs, many times each week, in a purpose-built theater.
First off, the show is a complete and total embarrassment, for many reasons. There's the embarrassing, cringe-inducing, enraging, and racist use of African American performers, many of whom come out of the theatrical woodwork at the beginning of the show, faces and upper bodies brightly painted, to swing around the theater making jungle noises. God help me; it's the 21st century and we haven't gotten to the point where we consistently write meaningful theatrical roles for African Americans.
Yeah, I know it's a spectacle. So?
Second, the scale of the thing is insane, in many directions. The theater is vast, the stage makes that of the Metropolitan Opera look small. And yet....in the middle of the vastness, you've got people doing acts that were invented about 700 years ago and would look great in a medieval village square done from the back of a horse-drawn cart, with the audience within 15 feet of the performer. They look like they're about 250 feet away in that gigantic theater. Did no one notice this?
Third, there's the stage itself, which goes up and down, swivels, rotates in various planes, turns around, goes upright, and, for all I know, flips over. It behaves remarkably like the Ring set that the Met paid a fortune, and not a small one, for.
I can't claim to know its full range of tricks because the show itself is so boring that I left after about 45 minutes. There's not a semblance of plot; you're so far from the action, even in good seats, that you have no connection with the performers. Acts move on and off stage; the performers don't really interact. And you've seen most of the tricks before.
As theater, this show is a shambles. There's not a bit of Personregie or any kind of human interest, although I think Cirque does have the nerve to claim that there is a plot. No there is not.
Had anyone from the Met bothered to attend this mess, which opened in 2005, they would have known exactly what they were getting in the way of a Ring director: a guy who likes to play with toys and has no real sense of theater. And maybe they wouldn't have signed him on.