A sensation is a feeling caused by outside stimulation, and in that sense, “Fuerzabruta” can properly be termed sensational. If you like your theater with a story that unfolds as you remain passively seated, that’s not what you’ll get at this follow-up to the long-running hit “De La Guarda.” If you’re open to something highly theatrical, throbbingly loud and almost ferociously stimulating (and wet), a visit to “Fuerzabruta” will provide an evening of jaw-dropping sensation.
The audience waits expectantly in the square black box of the Daryl Roth Theater. The first image — a white-suited man, running on a treadmill — starts in the distance; the handlers wave the audience out of the way as the bulky treadmill is moved into the middle of the space. Passersby float past, falling off the machinery like logs on a mattress and recycling themselves back into line. The man is shot — twice, yielding splashes of blood — and they are off.
A good deal of the show is airborne, with several truly spectacular effects. The piece de resistance is a transparent, airborne wading pool, roughly 40 foot square, with actors writhing through the water. At the climax, the pool descends just above head level; four female swimmers slip and slide above your ears, with patrons encouraged to touch the bodies through the thankfully durable plastic. When someone does a spread-eagled body slam just above your head, you literally feel the jolt. Thus, “Fuerzabruta” provides the sensation not of being at Cirque du Soleil but of being in (and under) Cirque du Soleil.
Show is the brainchild of Diqui James, the Argentine co-founder of the De La Guarda troupe. He works exceptionally well with his team of designers and techs, making the complicated production look seamless. Much of the lighting is of the colored-lights-on-aluminum-foil variety, which turns out to be highly effective when the playing area is literally wrapped in Mylar.
Given the current theatrical labor situation, it must be said that the “Fuerzabruta” stagehands do an exceptional job. (This is presumably a non-union crew, as is the case at most Off Broadway venues.) Scenic elements and safety devices are assembled in full view, with split-second timing; this job is not one that can be phoned in. One expects that “Fuerzabruta” — brute force, indeed — can better cope with understudies than with understudy stagehands. And in a well-deserved gesture, the cast shares the curtain call with the crew.
“Fuerzabruta” — which reaches New York after engagements in Buenos Aires, Lisbon, London and elsewhere — is surely not for everyone. Audience members are kept mobile, herded around to avoid low-flying scenery and bodies; packages need to be checked, as should coats (it gets warm on the floor).
The show is officially not recommended for those under 8, who may not be the only ones frightened by the noise, darkness and strobe lights. One thing is certain: You will be pelted with paper and pieces of foam and occasionally sprinkled with water. If you wish to get really wet, head toward the center of the space following the curtain call.
Regardless of how viscerally you choose to participate, James and his associates put on quite a show. “De La Guarda” ran six years at the Daryl Roth, on Union Square, on the strength of twentysomethings; one expects they will again provide the core audience. At 60 action-packed minutes, “Fuerzabruta,” with its magical effects, makes for an eye-popping adventure.