If Jules Verne and H.G. Wells had run off with a troupe of acrobats who later crossed paths with René Magritte, they might have concocted a spectacle like Cirque du Soleil’s “Kurios — Cabinet of Curiosities.”
They might have started by dreaming up the contortionists in candy-colored body paint who writhe and knot themselves into a tower on top of a giant mechanical hand.
Or maybe they would have begun with the equilibrist who balances on a stack of dining-room chairs, striving to reach a mirror image of himself, positioned upside down on the ceiling.
They certainly would have enjoyed inventing the top-hat-sporting gent whose torso consists of a bathysphere, which turns out to contain — no spoilers here. Suffice it to say that this diverting fever dream of a production not only supplies the gravity-defying feats that such entertainment requires but also frames those feats within a pleasingly oddball fictional world, complete with piquant steampunk visuals and just a hint of story.
Written and directed by Michel Laprise, and stationed under a big top at Lerner Town Square at Tysons II, “Kurios” conjures up the studio of a mad- scientist-like figure, the Seeker (Eligiusz Skoczylas), whose affinity for scientific instruments rich in knobs, clockwork cogs, glowing filaments and bell-jar covers seems to identify him with an alt- Victorian era. While entertaining a group of eccentric visitors, including musicians (Marc Sohier is the bandleader) and the human-bathysphere hybrid Mr. Microcosmos (Karl L’Écuyer), the Seeker opens up his prized cabinet of curiosities. Its contents manifest themselves as acrobatic and novelty acts, which play out for the guests’ amusement — and ours — accompanied by music that combines New Age insistence with an old-world-Europe sound. (“Kurios” premiered in Montreal in 2014.)
The most striking acts include the aforementioned chair-stacking scene, whose evocation of parallel universes containing identical 19th-century dinner parties — one at ground level, the other suspended upside-down at the apex of the big top — suggests a mash-up of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Horton Hears a Who!”
Far simpler, but equally impressive, are the exploits of the turquoise- coat-wearing Aviator (James Eulises Gonzalez), who, after flying in on a bat-winged aerial sled, proceeds to balance on a teetering tower of planks and cylinders, which at one point ascends into the air on a swing. (Stéphane Roy designed the set and props, and Philippe Guillotel the costumes.)
Facebook LIVE: Behind the scenes at the ‘Kurios’ Big Top
The show’s comedy bits — an invisible-circus sequence and some wordless shtick, performed by Facundo Gimenez, that alludes to dating and a Tyrannosaurus rex — go on too long and are only mildly funny.
Those moments aside, “Kurios” has a pleasantly unified feel, thanks to its grounding in the retro-futuristic aesthetic that is steampunk. When you’re not gaping at the show’s acrobatics or its yo-yo virtuoso (Chih-min Tuan), you can have fun admiring the images that evoke hallucinatory Dickensian sci-fi: The exuberant aliens bouncing on a fishing net. The Accordion Man (Nico Baixas), whose body appears to consist of pleated paper. The faceless robots who scuttle around the Seeker’s studio and who no doubt will tidy up when we are gone, preparing for another viewing of curiosities in the future.
Kurios — Cabinet of Curiosities Written and directed by Michel Laprise; director of creation, Chantal Tremblay; lighting design, Martin Labrecque; composer and musical director, Raphaël Beau; composers and musical directors, Bob & Bill; sound design, Jacques Boucher and Jean-Michel Caron. About 2 hours and 10 minutes. Through
Sept. 18 at Lerner Town Square at Tysons II. Tickets: $39-$170. Call 1-877-924-7783 or Visit cirquedusoleil.com/kurios.