Rob and Arno and I ended up going to see Penn & Teller more or less on a whim, as they were performing in our hotel, and we were lucky enough to be able to buy three seats in the back row just before the show started... we made a sprint across the casino from the box office to the theater. These "cheap" seats (at $90, that's about the cheapest you'll get) were actually not bad, though I can definitely say the closer seats would have been better. (And, of course, I was starting to get sick at the time too... the show did keep my mind off how poorly I was beginning to feel.) Now... As an American, I'm familiar with Penn & Teller... though my favorite thing is a zombie video online called "& Teller." Arno had never heard of them, but he got me into watching the entirety of Babylon 5, and as it turned out, they had a cameo as touted comedians Rebo and Zooty. So I happily exclaimed when they showed up, and had to explain to Arno who they were.... and when we ended up staying in the hotel where they had their show, well.. it was an easy decision to make, price and all. (The rush on the decision probably sealed the deal though.)
Penn and Teller had several interesting tricks. They had a new take on the "sawing a woman in half" trick--with a giant buzzsaw--which goes intentionally horribly wrong at the end. In keeping with current events, they did a trick with a metal detector and a metal credit-card-sized copy of the Bill of Rights. They were touting these as being sold in the gift shop, in hopes of flooding McCarran Airport with them. (Good luck, guys, we drove!) Teller performed this goldfish trick, which is impressive, but less so from the back row... in this case, the video was better. And there was this misdirection prank they pulled on a guy they pulled out of the audience to run a video camera... while he was focused on things going on in front of his narrowed camera view, they were meanwhile changing the scenery, tablecloth and props out of his field of vision and attention... The volunteer was mystified at the suddenly changed tablecloth and backdrop, while the audience had seen everything and got to laugh at him. It was very hard to keep watching what was going on on the stage instead of watching the feed from the camera, and I know I missed seeing a few things. I'd like to see that one again, certainly.
The show that we had planned to go see, for at least a couple months ahead, was Ka. I've seen a few Cirque de Soleil shows on DVD (Quidam, Dralion, and most recently, Worlds Away) and I've loved all of them. I was thrilled to get a chance to see it, and then my heart sank when the leading lady fell to her death when a rope failed back in July. Luckily, they were back up and running on Aug 16, so we still had a shot to go see it. Getting the tickets was kind of harrowing... we were trying to coordinate with MAui online, trying to pick a show (because Ka is so expensive, we were thinking of opting for something else). The sites I was looking at seemed to be a ripoff... offering one price and then changing it, or other cheaper prices ended up being tied to room stays or packages. We gave up on it, and I didn't have time to keep at it, because I had wedding business to take care of. We ended up just grabbing tickets at a Ticketmaster the day of the show, and I believe got a good deal on them. We owe this to MAui, who has more finesse in the area of ticket purchasing than either of us, and probably both put together.
In the end, we got seats in the third row, all the way to one side, and they were fantastic! The show itself was mind-blowing, with a stage that rotated to become nearly vertical at times, and at other times was occupied by a large boat or flying contraption. All parts of the theater were used, with people swinging from pillar to pillar on ropes, and at other parts of the show, the same pillars were transformed into tree trunks, up which crawled fascinatingly coordinated snakes and insects.
I can't begin to describe the plot here, or we'll be here all night... the main gist is that a prince and princess are on a boat the is attacked by another nation, brother and sister are separated, they're pursued all over the place by this hostile nation, they travel to a bunch of different strange places, the daughter of the hostiles' emperor falls in love with the prince, the princess falls in love with a man in the jungle, and everyone manages to come together in the end and make peace. It isn't a speaking drama, though... and really, you're there for the spectacular effects and acrobatics more than the story, so it doesn't need to be War & Peace.
MAui apologized to Arno, saying, "Sorry, we brought you in on the top floor..." None of the other Cirque shows apparently measures up to all the epicness of Ka! We all had a great time, even though I was still a little eurgh and exploded in the morning.
I much enjoyed Penn & Teller. They present their own slant on stage magic, which is firmy grounded in an entirely unironic "This is a trick, we're not telling you how we are doing this, there is no actual danger." This in contrast to magicians employing wind and smoke machines for mystical effect, or even those making fun of it. They are quite funny, and pretty outspoken about stuff they don't like, which includes, apparently, conning people using magic tricks and metal detectors on airplanes. On the conning, they particularly rail against the "Contact with the Dead" type shows. "These are just tricks," Penn stated. "They are wrong, they are vile, they are immoral, and I know every one of them!" Which they proceeded to demonstrate. It was definately a good evening out.
Now, Ka was something else. I don't have much to say about it other than that I thought it was very impressive, and very neat, even if it did have plot holes you could fling a trapeze artist through. "Wait, when did they take that lady prisoner?" I found myself wondering. And then there was Sparkle Tarzan, who was a love interest introduced literally in the scene before the final battle. It was almost hillarious to see him stand there amidst all the main characters celebrating their victory - grinning like he had no idea what just happened or what he was doing there, but maybe he might just get laid.
I'm just saying that for a laugh, though. It was an incredible spectacle, and MAui got us fantastic seats, close to the extra special awesome rotating stage... It's boat! No, now it's a beach! No, now it's a wall!
I have been wondering something, though. Some of these acts really are death-defying, as exemplified by the actual death occuring a few months back. These people take a risk with their lives purely to entertain the audience and be paid for the effort. On some level I wonder if that is right. One of the online movies Beedoo! was watching while writing her post had Penn (since only he speaks) telling about their philosophy towards stage magic, and one thing that he mentioned being proud of was that nobody ever got hurt badly on their shows, ever. Because as dangerous as their tricks look, they are perfectly safe. They even proudly tell the audience; it's part of the trick: it looks dangerous, but it isn't. Their nailgun trick drove that point (haha!) home. So who or what is right? Is the audience an accomplice when someone gets hurt doing a daring trick for their entertainment? Or are we all completely absolved; unwary onlookers?
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