MIAMI — With its slow-paced rhythms and emotive music, Slava’s SnowShow moves from scene to scene so carefully, so gentle, it feels like the show of a melancholy snail. The wild thing is how it still manages to turn grownups into children and little ones entertained more than an hour.
Not to be compared to high-tech shows such as Cirque du Soleil (where mind-blowing tricks and extreme choreographies carry the show), Slava’s central component is a human story. The acclaimed show, showing through Sunday at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, brings us humanity wrapped in humor and, yes, some magical unexpected moments courtesy of technology. Here it is not about pushing the limits of physics but the imagination.
In one scene, Asisyai, the main clown, wearing a bright yellow suit and red fluffy slippers, is having a conversation with himself. He walks between two phones and changes his voice depending on which one he picks up. With one, he sounds sweet, feminine and delicate. When he uses the other one, he is loud, rough and impulsive. It seemed like a conversation between two lovers arranging to meet, but that’s just me.
The funny part is seeing the character pull his hair back, stand more proper, before rushing to talk with a funny diminutive voice. Everybody laughed.
The show’s general pace is purposely delayed. After years of developing his character, Russian performance artist Slava Polunin, the show’s creator, found himself slowing Asisyai’s movements and expanding on the pauses. Those quick moments so typically overlooked between big gestures are emphasized here, left to fill the space. The awkward silence that results is as funny as any joke that could be said.
Watching Asisyai and his friends — a group of eccentric characters who all wear green trench coats — I caught myself thinking of Charlie Chaplin a lot. And I wonder if I was the only one who found the show sad, a bit dark at times, like a Chaplin film. The less-clowny, more-real-moments formula could have been fatal. But even when musical pieces by Vangelis and Beethoven come on and the lighting turns an intense red, all you hear in the room is laughter. How the actors manage to make even these seemingly dramatic moments funny is the real art.
In another scene, we watch Asisyai unpack his huge briefcase. With his peculiar short-step walk, he heads back and forth from the briefcase to a coat rack. He hangs a coat, then a hat, and as he brushes off the dust from both he places his right arm on the right sleeve of the garment. Suddenly, he is hugging himself the way one would hug a good old friend. But where we would expect a quick salute followed by a quick funny gesture, Polunin instead gives us a heartfelt hug that lingers. It was one of the most touching moments of the night, but like the rest not entirely devoid of humor.
It is certainly a subtle kind of funny. If all you can tolerate are fast-paced action movies and linear straight-to-the-point plots, that is perfectly fine, but this is not a show for you.
Slava’s SnowShow relies less on the exaggerated. There are no intense car chases. No sword fights. No dragon slayers. Remarkably, Polunin proves nothing fast and furious is needed to evoke our childhood, only adults not willing to forget it.
SLAVA’S SNOWSHOW runs through Sunday at the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami. Shows are 8 p.m. today and Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday, with 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets range from $25-$75. Call 877-949-6722 or visit www.arshtcenter.org.