Looking for a long, strange trip? Set your GPS to the Arsht Center.
That's where Slava's Snowshow opened last night, returning to Miami to greet a crowded house filled with children and adults alike. It was decidedly a family affair. The kids around us giggled with glee, high on youth, at the antics of a strange little man in yellow and his supporting cast of helicopter-headed clowns. Their parents chuckled right along with them, marveling at the colorful lighting, stage design, and personalities on stage.
Uncommonly for Arsht Center shows, drinks were allowed inside the theater. But y'know what would've really complemented the show? Drugs, man. Like, a ton of drugs.
This is not a complaint, merely an observation. Slava's Snowshow takes place in a world of sensory overload, a theater in which loud train noises and repetitive music are the background for brightly dressed clowns performing bits that audience members can often literally reach out and touch. It's funny, yes, but punctuated with sadness, longing, themes of death and rebirth.
In other, more stoner-appropriate words: Bro, this is some good shit.
We're not saying we were under the influence of illegal substances when we saw Slava's Snowshow last night. That would be unprofessional. But if we had been, perhaps in some alternate reality where snow falls in Florida in the middle of summer, these would've been the trippiest moments of the show.
Slava's Snowshow begins with one character, a tiny man in a baggy yellow suit and red shoes. Soon, he's joined by a tall, lanky character in a green trenchcoat and hat with side flaps that stick out like helicopter blades. The two work the stage for several minutes, and then Helicopter-Head walks off stage -- just as he appears to walk back on stage in the other direction.
Dude, did you see that? There are two of them. Wait, or am I just really fucking baked?
By the time four Helicopter-Heads appear on stage at once, your stoner mind is blown.
Angels of Death
The above scene ends with Slava disappearing to the right of the stage; when his Helicopter-Head friend tries to join him, he opens a door and is instantly bathed in heavenly light. After he passes through it, the stage goes dark. The group of Helicopter-Heads appear in silhouette, distinguishable from their hats, with one small but freaky distinction: They're wearing wings. Spooky music overwhelms the audience.
Is this the afterlife? Did those little clowns die? What if the portal to heaven is really a straight ticket to hell, man? Whoa, this is way too intense right now.
If you've seen the commercials for Slava's Snowshow on TV, you know to expect a giant spiderweb creeping over the top of the audience. But here's what you probably won't expect: The web is made out of the same wispy stuff that's used to decorate windows at Halloween, and once you've touched it, it is on you forever. Tiny, invisible bits of it tickled our skin and gave us the heebie-jeebies throughout the rest of the show ... and on our walk back to the car ... and later that night as we tried to sleep. You cannot escape it.
Now try living through that with stoner's paranoia. Something's crawling on me, man.
The Walls Are Breathing
In one of the most effective optical illusions of the evening, the white, furry-looking backdrops in one scene begin to sway and ripple, giving the effect that they're alive.
Bro. BRO. Is it me, or are the walls breathing? The walls are breathing, dude. Duuude.
It's an explosion of smoke and light and wind-blown white confetti that extends all the way out into the far reaches of the audience. If you're just an average person, it's a really impressive way to wrap up the show. But if you're stoned, it's the evil smoke monster from Lost and we have got to get out of here right fucking now, yo.
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Slava's Snowshow continues at the Arsht through August 25. Tickets cost $25-$65. Visit arshtcenter.org.
Follow Ciara LaVelle on Twitter @ciaralavelle.