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Derring-do in a steampunk world: This Cirque du Soleil show is so 'Kurios'

Derring-do in a steampunk world: This Cirque du Soleil show is so 'Kurios'
The cast of Cirque du Soleil's "Kurios" waves to the audience. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Cirque du Soleil is about as close to a transporter device as humankind can yet offer. Step through its tent flaps and you'll enter another world.

The show that’s just reached Los Angeles  "Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities"  even looks like a retro-futuristic version of such an apparatus.

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FOR THE RECORD

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Dec. 10, 2:20 p.m.: An earlier version of this story named Facundo Gimenez as the show's clown. The performer on opening night was David-Alexandre Despres.

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The dull gleam of metal is everywhere, from the yawning portal through which the performers materialize to the masses of industrial-duty gears that look ready to clank into action. Over here is a fantastical transmitter built of a typewriter keyboard, a clock and a gramophone horn. Over there are towering automated music-making machines cobbled together from giant glass globes, metal bracing and half a junkyard's worth of unusual finds.

It’s "Metropolis," "The Time Machine" and "The Wizard of Oz"  a mechanized world at once wondrous and slightly ominous.

The steampunk trappings of "Kurios" amplify Cirque's brand of astonishment, even after the Montreal-based circus has taken us to Magritte-like realms, bug colonies, the primordial Earth and so on.

The show, in the Dodger Stadium parking lot, also excels at making the familiar seem new, a not insignificant feat. Because, let's face it, after 28 years of visits and a superhuman fertility of shows, Cirque has become so ubiquitous that fatigue sometimes sets in. But this time, even the most familiar acts deliver surprises.

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A solo trapeze act is performed not from a bar but from a suspended bicycle. (The aerialist at Wednesday's opening was Anne Weissbecker.) The rola bola  a feat of balance atop stacked cylinders  is taken aloft on a levitating platform (James Eulises Gonzalez Correa). The aerial straps are commanded by muscular male conjoined twins  an illusion created via some costume trompe l’oeil  who magically detach when airborne yet remain spiritually bound as they perform their sideways arabesques (Roman and Vitali Tomanov).

And the balanced-chairs act?

It begins at a dinner party where a guest (Andrii Bondarenko) provides the postprandial entertainment by executing artful, one-armed, gravity-defying poses atop the chairs he's stacked onto the table. But look overhead! There's an upside-down, mirror image of the party taking place up there, and its performing guest is building his chair tower down, down, down. Will the two acts touch?

The clown act has been the Achilles' heel of many a Cirque show, but David-Alexandre Despres is a miracle of transformation as he shape-shifts from would-be Lothario to the klutz's wayward cat, which is given to hairball hacks and cat-box indiscretions.

Robots putter, a train loops through the audience, book pages flap like birds. There's always something to distract you as the stage is set and acts flow seamlessly into one another.

The Philippe Guillotel-designed costumes have an early 1900s look, whether aviator suits or women's promenading dresses. The ever-present music also has an old-time feel, European folk songs morphing into early jazz. It's composed by Raphaël Beau and the single-named duo Bob and Bill.

The show breezes along 12 acts on opening night, plus a big group opener as it serves up such marvels as a couple who play vertical leapfrog along a Chinese pole (Maude Arseneault and Mikaël Bruyère-L’Abbé); a trio of contortionists who melt and reshape themselves into what look like Chihuly-style, blown-glass sculptures (Bayarma Zodboeva, Ayagma Tsybenova and Khaliunsuren Narankhuu); a yo-yo artist executing moves 1,000 times faster than you ever could as a kid (Tomonari Ishiguro); and video-projected “hand theater” that takes walking fingers into the realm of break dancing (Nico Baixas). (Acts and their personnel can vary from performance to performance.)

While applauding these performers, include an extra round for the creative acrobats: writer-director Michel Laprise (who was, trivia hounds, the director of Madonna's "MDNA" tour) and set and props designer Stéphane Roy.

"Kurios," like all Cirque shows, inspires wonder, awe, excitement, suspense ... and an itch to make more frequent trips to the gym. The transporter is now loading.

"Kurios," Dodger Stadium Parking Lot 1, enter at Elysian Park Avenue, Los Angeles. Times vary, but generally 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 4:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 7. Prices vary but currently are about $40-$165, not including VIP packages. (877) 924-7783 or www.cirquedusoleil.com/kurios. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

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