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"Quidam," the latest Cirque du Soleil production, is like falling into a dazzling dream where images take on meanings both personal and mystical, overwhelming the ability to sort everything out. From now until the end of June, a 2,500-seat tent in Battery Park City has been transformed into an astonishing landscape of the mind.

Magically, mysteriously, "Quidam" (meaning "Everyman") reaches backward into theatrical tradition, while suggesting millennial possibilities. Here is a future not mundane and mechanistic, but afloat in a surrealistic territory where the human figure comes into its own. Fantasy and reality recombine to offer a new correlative.

The show's atmosphere derives from Magritte and Fellini. We see a child, neglected by her parents, enter a land every bit as wondrous as Alice's. Down the rabbit hole she goes to encounter a man rolling about in a wheel, a woman contortionist performing an aerial ballet on a 50' column of red silk, a troupe skipping rope with lightning precision, four Chinese women delicately and dexterously manipulating wooden spools. High above, figures dangle like deified ghosts. As a climax, 15 Slavic performers become flying bodies landing precisely and amazingly atop human pyramids.

The evening's most spectral act is "Statue/Vis Versa," wherein Yves Dƒcoste and Marie-Laure Mesnage become a primal, sensual, muscular Adam and Eve, balancing each other in impossible positions and demonstrating the triumph of the human body. Presiding over the proceedings, and doing his own delightful dance with a coat rack, is the amusingly sinister John Gilkey.

Not everything works. The two clowns are boring, an interlude rolling red balls on wavy pieces of aluminum is over-extended, a woman swinging back and forth, back and forth on high ropes is soporific.

But the spectacle, written and directed by Franco Dragone and choreographed by Debra Brown, is a visionary affair. With costumes by Dominique Lemieux, sets by Michel Crte, music by Beno"t Jutras, lighting by Luc Lafortune, and sound by Fran‚ois Bergeron, "Quidam," for all its singular complexity, has time to kid other circuses when several members of the troupe imitate seals. Even the joke has resonance: It makes you never want to see a conventional circus again.

Presented by Cirque du Soleil, at Battery Park City, NYC, April 16-June 28.




It is a shame they don't still write old-fashioned musical comedies, because they are still fun. Take the Village Light Opera Group's revival of the 1950 Irving Berlin-Lindsay and Crouse "Call Me Madam." It may have been more topical back in the 1950s, with its references to Truman and McCarthy, but it is still colorful, diverting, and melodic.

Thanks to a bigger-than-life performance by Lydia Gladstone as Sally Adams, "the Hostess with the Mostes' on the Ball," who raises more than eyebrows as American Ambassador to Lichtenburg, "Call Me Madam" is a strong and entertaining book musical. Not only does Gladstone have all of the most uptempo songs ("Can You Use Any Money Today?," "You're Just in Love," etc.), but she makes the most of them with her big, warm soprano.

Director and choreographer William Koch (with co-choreography by Tanya Becker) keeps this long show swiftly moving along--a not-unheroic feat considering the cast of 50. Koch also gets all the right laughs--notable considering how both politics and musicals have changed since 1950. Conducting an orchestra of 26, music director Ronald W. Noll evokes the lush sound of the '50s. The stylized designs by costume designer Sandra King and set designer Alexis Dennis are attractive, particularly the stained-glass windows for Sally's office.

Steve Eubanks is both distinguished and authoritative as the finance minister of Lichtenburg who catches Sally's eye and heart. Joseph Callari and Lauri Shemaria as Sally's embassy assistant and Lichtenburg's Princess Maria, respectively, make a lovely pair of star-crossed lovers, though Callari's songs are sometimes out of his range. As the Congressional Committee, Eric Bettelheim, Jeffrey Kurnit, and Robert A. Boyle have a grand time with "They Like Ike." Robert Greshes and Ron Sharpe have fun with political etiquette while Sally flouts it and them.

Presented by the Village Light Opera Group Ltd., at the Haft Auditorium, Fashion Institute of Technology, 227 W. 27th St., NYC, April 18-26.




Tennessee Williams' 1960 sentimental comedy about marital problems, "Period of Adjustment," has just opened at Theatre 22. Pointing up the problems of playing against the text, this agonizingly slow production turns broad farce into moody Chekhovian melodrama; choral lines that are meant to build and hilariously explode sound here like inept repetition.

The plot quite simply involves bringing together two problematic couples for a long night together, and may have inspired Edward Albee to write a much better and better-known play. George Haverstick has just married his nurse, Isabel, because of the sensual rubdowns she administered while he was hospitalized for combat-related tremors.

After an angry non-event wedding night in the Ole Man River Motel, George calls on his war buddy Ralph Bates. Ralph's wife, Dorothea, has walked out during the day of this Christmas Eve; and George drops Isabel off at the Bates house, seemingly abandoning her. Playing against the text again, director Terese Hayden allows Ralph to begin to seduce the tearful Isabel. It makes for a steamy scene, but violates Williams' foresightful stage directions that forbid anything like this. Again, the farce that should result from Isabel's description of an instant marriage gone awry is thrown away. "I'm afraid I married a stranger," Isabel tells the sympathetic Ralph, who responds, "Everybody does!"

Karen Krantz seems ill at ease trying to inhabit the hysterical Isabel; but when this character calms down, the actress is quite moving. Roger Kovary is good as George; but Charles Cissel as the distraught and drunken Ralph incessantly roams around the stage, suggesting a lack of clarity in performance. Rhonda Dodd is wonderful in the all-too-brief role of Dorothea, while Jacqueline Brookes and James Stevenson add some much-needed dramatic weight to the roles of her parents. Kim Webb is pert and proper as Susie, the maid who comes to collect Dorothea's Christmas present. Whatever the problems, much thanks to Terese Hayden for reviving a neglected Williams play filled with gentle wisdom.

Presented by Terese Hayden, at Theatre 22, 54 W. 22nd St., NYC, April 14-26.

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