“When the fog is thick,” a young man explains to the audience, “It is as if the village is upside down.” In Nebbia, the third in a trilogy of shows by Daniele Finzi Pasca, Cirque Eloize takes fog as its central metaphor. Fog billows across the stage and floats out over the audience, emanates from one characters’ sleeves and encircles the performers onstage. Laughter, too, floats on the wind, its source unknown. Finzi Pasca’s vision is of a community of circus performers preparing for a carnival. Yet all around their play and preparation floats a misty veil, obscuring some moments and illuminating others, casting an eerie glow, transforming reality into dream.
As in his last production for the company, Rain, Finzi Pasca brings a cinematic eye to this acrobatic theater work, using dialogue, music, lighting, and vivid scenes to build a mesmerizing dramatic world. One scene takes place in a butcher’s shop, animal carcasses hanging above a thick wooden table where a woman tosses a heavy knife high above her head, slithers over and under the chopping block snakelike fluidity, and runs her finger across its surface, as if to wipe away a drop of blood. For the trampoline scene, the curtain opens only halfway, so that the gymnasts’ buoyant bounces are captured in a panoramic strip of light.
“Why do I always dream of things falling from the sky?” asks the same young man, and as if in compliance, the heavens let loose with a downpour of corks. Things are always falling, or threatening to fall, from these skies. A male acrobat descends from the ceiling suspended between two bolts of silk, then tumbles nearly to the ground. A woman in a white dress seems to float above the stage, playing blue glass bottles with sticks. Comets trailing tails streak across the sky, and men toss plates to one another.
And then the performers huddle together, watching as a man struggles to stand. He refuses support though he quakes and buckles: he is determined to walk on his own. After all the tumbling and the giggling, the awesome feats of flexibility and strength, the antic music and the slapstick clowning, Nebbia resolves into this final scene: a man with bowed legs, shaking and half naked, waving a white handkerchief as the snow begins to fall.