The giant swimming pool above our heads is still intact. The mid-air race around a room-enveloping Mylar curtain is, too. While Wayra, the latest iteration of Fuerza Bruta, the popular Argentinean theatrical experience at the Daryl Roth Theatre, is being billed as providing a "fresh experience" through "newly designed set and scenes," nothing about it actually feels that way. And in the age of mind-blowing environmental-theater shows like Here Lies Love, Queen of the Night, and even Sleep No More, Wayra is more or less old hat, no matter how high the actors fly around the room.
Yeah, the performers do fly, which is one thing Fuerza Bruta ("Brute Force") can still lord over its now-multitudinous competitors. And unlike, say, Here Lies Love, this particular show has no story, which is perhaps one of the reasons why it's been so popular among younger audiences for the past seven years. You stand around and dance, get pelted by water and hit over the head with Styrofoam blocks, and don't have to worry about following a plot. You can lose touch with reality for an hour or so and get sucked into a world were humans can literally run sideways on flimsy walls made of what looks like aluminum foil. If you've never seen it before, it's an inspiring sight, one that revives childhood memories of wishing that you could fly.
But from the creative perspective, you can't help but wish director Diqui James had added some new twists and turns. Everything in Fuerza Bruta is cool to start out, but if you've seen it before, you know what tricks are up the show's sleeves. The performers are energetic and can't be faulted; they do an excellent job of getting the crowd involved. The real show, however, is presented by the stagehands, whose bodies are drenched with as much sweat as the performers'. As you watch them wrangle audience members and maneuver the heavy, dangerous scenery, all while making sure that no one gets hurt, you realize that their theatrical feats can't be topped even by a giant swimming pool that descends so low from the rafters that you can, for a fleeting moment, reach out and touch it.