True, this offering from the Canadian-based entertainment conglomerate, written and directed by Francois Girard, isn't Cirque's finest show -- either in execution or conception. I still have no idea about what the magician Zark, played by the soulfully-voiced Paul Bisson, or sultry female vocalist Meetu Chilana are singing about. And the show takes more time than it should to kick into high gear.
Once it does, however, there is plenty to look forward to. Girard and his Cirque team have taken great advantage of Radio City's width, height, and breadth -- along with its LED screens -- to create some extraordinary stage pictures, such as an enormous spider's web.
And through amazing projection design, they flood the stage with images both gorgeous and creepy! (If you're afraid of snakes, there's one rather bizarre segment during which you may want to close your eyes.)
The acts are a bit of mixed bag, but some truly excite, including the extraordinary hand balancer Anatoly Zalevskiy, who is something of a contortonist; the amazing troupe of trapeze artists, who manage to catch each other in mid-air; and the seemingly fearless Carlos Marin and Junior Delgado atop and inside the "Wheel of Death."
Carole Demers is quite impressive on the Russian Bar, aided by the muscular Johnny Gasser and Yuri Kreer, diminutive ladder climber Victoria Dvoretskaya and partner Dmitry Dvoretsky deserve hearty rounds of applause for their derring-do, and sand painter Erika Chen takes artistry to another level with her gift for imagery.
A group of attractive male flag wavers with extraordinary hand-eye coordination and female juggler Maria Choodu also do very fine, if less remarkable, work, as do the "Banquine" artists who close the show, lifting one another on their shoulders and throwing the female acrobats into the air as if they were feathers. Fans of the Cirque's signature clowns may be disappointed by their relative lack of stage time, but will still enjoy their antics.
Indeed, one of the greatest strengths of Zarkana is that no act lasts very long, so if one doesn't appeal, it's only minutes until another takes center stage. And, in typical Cirque fashion, keep your eyes peeled at all times, since you never know what might happen next.