Arachnid Wonder World: Risnorf’s Circus of Grand, Gargantuan Grandness, of quite Grandifying Grandiosity.

Upon exiting the hellish attraction that was The Cocoon Twister, give or take some hyperbole, I fully expected Domina to break down in tears, or something in that vein. I was ready to call it quits if she so desired, and leave Arachnid Wonder World early, and call our attempt to quell Domina’s severe arachnophobia a relative failure. Frankly I’m surprised that I didn’t break down in tears after that ordeal…However, despite my expectations, Domina did nothing of the sort; she remained silent. But this wasn’t the sort of shocked, unresponsive silence that she experienced at the beginning of our trip to AWW (years ago it seemed.), but instead a more reflective silence, as if she was mulling something over in her head. She was alarmingly calm, in fact…

            For a while, we paced along the wide web-paths of AWW in absolute silence, not really having any kind of plan as to what to do next. I was still reeling, flabbergasted by the experience of this last attraction to really have anything to say. I was feeling positively famished, however, and began day dreaming of the most scrumptious of scrumptious cheesecakes. I must give credit where credit is due; only in AWW is it possible to ride a ridiculously head-spinning and spine-breaking attraction, only to fantasize about dairy treats five minutes later without the least bit of nausea. That being said, the Garden of Vomiting cured the physical dizziness and disorientation, but none of the mental weariness. Regardless, I could certainly use my own garden of vomiting in case I ever get food poisoning…but the creators of AWW hold their patents close to their chest, and alas, such a garden wasn’t, and isn’t, for sale.  

            Eventually I broke the silence, suggesting that we grab a bite to eat before continuing our journey in AWW. I would have like to ask her what on earth she was thinking, but I was too worse-for-wear to find the energy to probe her. Her response to my suggestion, however, despite being exceedingly mundane, was the most astonishing thing to come out of Domina’s mouth all day. More shocking then her former, ostensible desire to have spider sex. She merely suggested that we eat a restaurant in the park, ideally one with an in-house show. That way we wouldn’t waste any time casually eating from some second-rate food stand, and instead take advantage of a full meal of fine-dining with an entertaining show to boot. A filling meal would also allow us to skip dinner, thus saving more time…Which is precisely what happened, dear reader. I stoically agreed with her and set out to search for a restaurant, hiding my nonplussed feelings. You see, it wasn’t so much what she said, but rather how she said it. Domina, one of the most arachnohpobic people I have ever known, Domina, the person who killed a man for daring to draw a spider in front of her, Domina, whom had literally just spent the last ten minutes being manhandled by three gigantic and insane arachnids, was now casually sauntering along ARACHNID WONDER WORLD without a care in the world, making culinary-related suggestions with a relaxed smile on her face. She may has well have been whistling ‘Happy Days’, too. This wasn’t just some elaborate act, either; I could see it in her eyes; she was spiritually content with the moment. No repressed emotions to be seen here, dear reader. Just good old, Domina. Or was it Domina? Was this really the same person I brought to AWW this morning? Or was she body snatched by an alien (or more likely a spider) at some point without my knowledge? I’m inclined to believe she has always been an alien…Or perhaps I’m the alien.

            Ah, I do apologize for rambling, dear reader. You’re probably more interested in the review for this titular circus, aren’t you? No? Well then go away please, I’m quite offended by your apathy. Ridiculous. How insulting and hurtful.

            Now that those readers have rightfully buzzed off, I am left with you fine readers. How marvelous!  As I was saying, I put a pin on questioning Domina about her mind-boggling normalcy to instead focus on choosing a restaurant. It didn’t take us long; we asked a nearby gorilla-like spider for suggestions. There are six fully-fledged restaurants within AWW, only two of which featured shows. One was nearby and had a double feature circus show starting at 1:10 PM, only thirty minutes from now. Perfect timing. Apparently the food was excellent, so Domina and I marched in the direction of this circus, my stomach rumbling with anticipation.

 

Aesthetics

You would expect a circus with a name as absurdly “grand” as this one to look the part…grand, that is. The truth was, dear reader, that the appearance of this restaurant & show hybrid looked anything but grand. From the outside at least, the tent that enclosed this circus was remarkably generic, so incredibly bland and forgettable that I simply had to include that oxymoron. Truly, it was almost a paradoxically shocking sight. It should go without saying that AWW is quite certainly the most unique and innovative theme park on the planet, without contest. The park aesthetics alone can attest to that, of which I have barely scratched the surface of. Did I mention that there were dozens upon dozens of canvas-picture-sized tank farms with tiny (regular-sized) spiders weaving colorful, abstract web designs for our viewing pleasure, spread throughout the paths of the park? In a park with that level of attention to detail, a ho-um, red & white striped, modestly sized and unequivocally boring circus tent with nonexistent frills ironically stood out like a sore thumb. Risnorf, whoever he was, should have hired a better designer; this tent managed to be so bland that is somehow managed to be more invisible than the actually-invisible attraction that we just experienced, whilst still attracting our attention by virtue of how remarkably unremarkable it all was. Even the signage seemed to blend in with the nothingness, which was quite strange considering it was only sign at the park thus far that didn’t conform to the elegant and cursive gossamer logos. Almost as though it wasn’t worth the honor. Instead, the tent was treated to a simplistic banner-logo, fit with semi-bombastic lettering, as you would expect with any circus (but certainly not with AWW). In fact, the lettering and color-scheme of the logo here seemed like a mediocre version of traditional circus logos.  The only thing that was kind of amusing was the name itself, which, based on first impressions, seemed comically unfitting. It was truly as if some deranged hobo decided he wanted to set-up his own circus within AWW, and somehow managed to get past security and stake a claim. Perhaps the arachnid staff pitied the man and indulged his desire… But nope, this was an official attraction of the park.

             Judging by the look on Domina’s face, she had the same dejected reaction that I had to the tent. We were both tempted to give it a pass, but there was only one other show-restaurant hybrid in AWW, on the other side of the park; with how gelatinous are legs were feeling, we couldn’t be bothered… So we shrugged our shoulders and gave Risnorf the benefit of the doubt. We kept an open mind, and I’m quite glad we did so, dear reader! I can happily assure you of that!     

Visually, the interior of the tent was as generic as ever, pretty much identical to every other circus in the world, a circular stage center with a 360 degree viewing area surround the main stage. The only difference was the inclusion of circular dining tables for viewers, the tables and chairs being about as bland as you’d expect. However, one thing about the interior made it quite special…Extraordinary, as a matter of fact. It was at this point that I told myself that I should stop feeling a sense of surprise every time AWW pulls the technological wool over my eyes. This time, the creators of AWW figured out how to make the inside of a structure several times larger than how it looked from the outside, and not just in an illusionistic capacity. The size difference was by a factor of at least ten, conservatively speaking. This, at the very least, did impress me greatly. The scale alone almost justified the name of the circus!

The surprisingly sizable interior of the tent, as well as the fact that aesthetics in a restaurant-show attraction such as this one are relatively small potatoes, saves this section from getting an abysmal score. After all, what really matters is the food, and especially the shows themselves, which I’ll be covering shortly.

Despite the positives, I considered giving this section of the review two arachnids out of five, but something kept me from doing that, something intertwined with the double feature show of this circus. You’ll understand what I’m talking about as you continue reading this post. All I can say is that the lazy, run-of-the-mill aesthetics of this circus was no accident, dear reader.

 

Score: 3 arachnids out of 5

 

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Cuisine

            The experience that Domina and I had within Risnorf’s Grand Circus more than made up for the less-than-stellar impressions the venue itself gave off.  It all began and ended with the absolutely fabulous cuisine on offer, which was the first surprise of many, dear reader. Indeed, who would have thought some shabby, backend circus tent (albeit one that’s much larger than it looks.) would be able to provide such a delectable eating experience, one that rivaled the finest of fine dining restaurants? Some of the ostensibly “best” restaurants on the planet have got nothing on this place, at least based in my experience. They’ve got the ostentatious settings, sure, and the abject luxury to boot. But in terms of the quality and quantity of the food itself, not to mention the value, this raggedy circus venue blew some of those eateries out of the water. Just goes to show you, pretention is way over-valued in our world. But it makes me wonder why the mysterious creators behind AWW haven’t monopolized the food industry yet…But who am I to ponder the nature of these higher beings?

             The way we ordered our food proceeded in a relatively traditional manner. A waiter (another pleasant surprise here; an elegant, black and white spider dressed in a tuxedo with a fittingly fancy/boring British accent. Apples and oranges to the environment, dear reader. ) gave us a menu of absurd, novel-length proportions, and allowed us to mull over the options before returning to note our selection. It would have been impossible to read every option in time; we had to settle for cursory glances. The menu could be considered a double-edged sword, I suppose.

            If you would allow quick digression form this cuisine overview, dear reader... Well, you don’t have a choice. Once we ordered our food, somehow managing to make a selection from the overwhelming mountain of choices, I figured it was as good a time as any to have a proper conversation with Domina. I questioned her about her strikingly calm and content state, as if her arachnophobia had evaporated into thin air. She pondered this for a moment, for a good while, in fact. Finally, with an unnerving amount of self-assuredness, she simply said that AWW couldn’t possibly have anything worse on offer over the Cocoon Twister. That anything even 1 percent less intense in comparison was pure heaven. Her lack of post-traumatic stress was jarring, considering her history with spiders, and she was not suppressing or compensation for her emotions, dear reader. No, no, she was proudly embracing herself in the whole sense of it, finding a new found appreciation of her environment to the umpth degree, not unlike someone who had a near-death experience. Domina has always been a wise one when emotionally balanced, but her new-found disposition took things to a whole new level of awe. After some time, I got over my incredulity, and thus, we were finally able to start having normal conversations again. It felt like an age since the last time we did that. We talked about movies we wanted to see, video games we wanted to play, and places we wanted to visit before the show began and our food arrived. During the intermission between the two shows, we talked a bit about the show we just saw, and Domina went on a somewhat annoying tangent, gloating about her endless shoe collection that I didn’t really care about, but I found her endearing all the same. 

            But I’ve rambled for too long, dear reader. What of the food? Well as I’ve said, it was exquisite. The sumptuous course came to us gradually, from appetizer to desert, and was timed perfectly with the runtime of the two shows, remarkably enough. We tried to order a suitable and sizeable variety of food to really fill up our appetites enough to skip dinner, a resounding success as it were. Here’s a really beautiful thing about this eatery, though; we couldn’t actual get full, no matter how hard we tried. Through some unfathomably advanced pharmaceutical innovations, the waiter provided us with optional pills to take prior to eating. These pills allowed us to eat to our hearts desires without any consequences; we would always be hungry. Ate an entire grocery store? Not a problem, we still have hundreds of cheesecakes for your eating pleasure, not to mention the bakery down the street. You know that disappointing moment in a restaurant where you realize you’re completely full, and the food you were eating no long has that mouth-watering appeal that it had mere minutes ago? Well, imagine a pill that let you re-experienced that oh-so-sweet first bite, but that hunger never dissipated, and lasted the entire meal, without exception. We took the pill, and indeed, it was nirvana. As advertised. Of course, we were skeptical at first, and wondered what the long-term side effects would be, obesity withstanding. Unlike other known drugs, this pill was apparently based on a radius of location, rather than being time-based. That means that the effect   of the pill would wear off once we exited the tent. The waiter assured us that although we would experience a bit of discomfort at this stage, the pill had a special release chemical that would purge all the excess calories we consumed in one fell swoop, retaining the optimal amount of calories based on our individual biology’s. We couldn’t argue with the safety statistics of AWW, so we popped those pills and dug into our meal like ravenous beasts while enjoying the entertaining shows that I’ll get to later.

            Truthfully, the food itself was surprisingly traditional, or at least wasn’t that out of the ordinary. For this reason I won’t delve into the subtleties of the food themselves much, I’m no cuisine connoisseur. But if you’ve ever tried anything I’m about to share, just remember that the one here was ten times better. Now, I understand that taste is subjective, and that this place had the distinct advantage of having an always-hungry pill, but still….I fear that I shall never have a better meal in my lifetime. Note that what you’re reading doesn’t reflect the menu, it reflects what we ordered, and quite fully consumed.

 

Appetizers:    

Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms - Mushroom-Stuffed Crabs  - Pao de Queijo  - Nachos 

Salad:

Domina: Caesar Salad

Me: Swirly Pasta Salad

Main Course: 

Domina: Portabella Mushroom Burger – Pepperoni Pizza – Pineapple Pizza – Extra Cheesy Black Olive Pizza – Chicken Pizza

 Me:  Roasted Pig – Baby-Back Ribs – Alfredo Chicken & Bowtie Pasta – Extra Large Pork Tenderloin – Green Apple Slices

Post-Main Course Appetizer:

Deep-Fried watermelon

Desert:

Domina: Meringues - Raisin cookies (don’t know what she was thinking ordering these…) - Chocolate Cream Puffs - Angel’s Food Cake - Devil’s Food Cake    

Me: Beneigh - New York Cheese Cake - Philadelphia Cheese Cake - Dallas Cheese Cake - Los Angeles Cheese Cake - Albuquerque Cheese Cake

                I believe that I’ve painted a sufficiently tasty picture of our eating experience, dear reader. Although I hope I didn’t make you too hungry.

I was going to rate the cuisine a very strong four arachnids out of five, nearly a five. The only thing that would’ve kept the score within the four range was the simple fact that the cuisine offered no real surprises despite being utterly delicious (that being a surprise in-an-of-itself due to the lackluster digs.). However, on this front, I was proven incorrect on a pretty significant level.

Once the second show finished its run, and as we prepared to exit the tent, the main waiter returned to the audience and announced a “specialty” menu to those of us who took the eating pill I mentioned.  This menu consisted exclusively of chocolate chip cookies. Quite mundane, yes? Well, what if I told you we actually got to experience three shows rather than two? What If I told you that the ultimate arbiters of this third show were none other than us, everyone that was in the audience, that is. Predicated entirely on our final menu selection. Of course, every choice was essentially the same, a chunky, decent enough chocolate chip cookie, but nothing that held a candy to the main cuisine we consumed. So what made these cookies so special? Did the chocolate come from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory? No, no, dear reader, although I recently found out that AWW may have had some affiliations with Mr. Wonka, but that’s just hearsay.  The cookie itself was nothing special; it was what the cookie did to us that truly blew our minds. That was what the menu choices were predicated upon. Although there weren’t nearly as many as half of the options offered within the main cuisine, the quality of the options more than substantiated the subpar quantity. Off the top of my head, the options included but weren’t limited too; the ability to temporarily transform into an eight-legged human spider; Instant (human) pregnancy and delivery, worked on males as well; temporary ability of flight via dragonfly wings, giving us the agility of insects whilst retaining our size; one that causes the consumer to constantly vomit a barrage of centipedes (not my favorite.); one temporarily gives you eight eyes; a mystery cookie, ect…Once all members of the audience received the cookies that they ordered, sheer bedlam ensued. The only reason I specifically remember the choices listed above was because I got to experience them firsthand, in such an entertainingly chaotic fashion. I wouldn’t have believed the options otherwise. This was the equivalent of buying a pack of Gushers back in the 90s, only to discover that they actually did transform your head into fruit! I got to see what I’ll likely never see again; an infertile woman in ecstasy, experiencing the hyper-miracle of child birth; a man in a business suit with four arms and four legs, on a phone call; a poor ginger vomiting endless centipedes, the guy clearly lost a bet, or was otherwise channeling Ron Weasley. As for Domina and I, we had a nice vantage point of the surreal chaos by virtue of our temporary dragonfly wings. We also played the most unique and engaging game of tag that has likely ever been played, save for people who ordered the same thing in this circus-restaurant.

This extraordinary “third show”, as it were, really provided a spike to my final rating. I would have given it six arachnids if I could.

           

Score: 5 arachnids out of 5

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The Extraordinary Arachnid-Man!

                 

This review is turning quite into the oversized essay and a half, is it not, dear reader? I’m afraid that I am quite the rambler. I’m only just now beginning to review the actual shows themselves. It’s as If I’m reviewing a video game, but spent half to time focusing one particular level, and the rest of the game for the other half. Look at this! I’m rambling about rambling! How embarrassing, and it’s too late to backtrack now. Wait, I’m writing, not speaking, I could simply backspace my work…Duh! Ah, but the fallacy of sunk costs is a powerful force, I’ve already typed this much, may as well continue to ramble. No, I should stop while I’m ahead…Gah! Help me, dear reader!

Anyways, the “Extraordinary Arachnid-Man” wasn’t the actual name of the first show, I presented that name for the sake of brevity. The real title was ‘The Extraordinapuluary, the Spectacunapulator, the Stupendifidifying, Arachnid-Man!’ A strange title to be sure, a bit of a mouthful. I was able to keep a flyer of Risnorf’s circus; I wouldn’t have been able to recall the name otherwise.

So what was this show all about? Was it a rip-off of Spider-Man? Well, not quite. Although it certainly did involve a spider man, of sorts. This man, the main force of the show as you may have guessed, was indeed a man, as in human. This vaguely surprised me, I was expecting a spider, but it wasn’t enough to overshadow the surprise of the delicious cuisine. What almost did overshadow that, however, was the simple fact that I was thoroughly entertained by this showing. Considering the lackluster digs, I was expecting quite the rum-bum and forgettable affair. Certainly nothing to write home about. My expectation was again proven to be woefully misguided, and I’m more than happy to write not just home about it, but to you, my dearest of dear readers.

What would a self-respecting circus show be without a regular freak-show of a man at the helm of it? A self-respecting circus. But without an irregular freak-show of a man at the helm? Get out of here and try again. In a place like AWW, where you can have philosophical conversations with colorful spiders, or else take a selfie with one, being a freak is quite an achievement. But I feel that it has indeed been achieved by this mysterious and nameless Arachnid-Man. When he walked up to the center stage spotlight, he said nothing. In fact, he didn’t utter a word the entire runtime of the show; a truly pure performer, if there ever was one. He had a lean but muscular form, had an unnaturally reflective bald head (I eyed a woman’s diamond brooch on that mirror of a head.), lacked any eyebrows, and was bare-naked. ‘Naked’ probably isn’t the best way to describe him, but, ponder as I might, I cannot find a word that accurately reflects his…condition. He wasn’t wearing any clothes, that much is accurate. But…Well…He was missing things he shouldn’t have been missing. His posterior, for instance. It wasn’t there; his skin simply continued onwards towards his thighs. I didn’t want to imagine how this guy used the restroom. His anterior privates also seemed to suffer(?) the same conditions as his posterior. I had to blink twice. And before you think it, dear reader, this was not a mere illusion pulled off by the wonders of AWW. How do I know this? In the process of exiting the tent and heading back into AWW proper, we had the opportunity to meet and greet the cast of the two shows. Of course, in his case, there was no real greeting to be had. But spider guides allowed us to feel him up, and he seemed to nod his consent. Rest assured, there was nothing there. I asked whether this was the doing of some kind of pharmaceutical wonder for the sake of showmanship, but this guy was apparently born this way. They had the ability to grow the proper organs for the man, but he apparently refused the treatment, content with his state. How he took care of business remained a mystery to me.

Not Ripley enough for you, dear reader? Fear not, the Arachnid-Man makes Domina look like a conformist, model citizen of society. 

The show had an unnerving and creepy quality to it. This rang true the instant it started. To begin, he simply stood there in the spotlight, upright and expressionless. It was as if he was having a staring contest with Medusa. This gave the audience time to soak in his peculiar appearance. But no one in the audience could have fathomed what happened next. Without warning, without any alteration to that stoic expression on his face, the man proceeded to tear open his own abdomen with his bare hands. It was not a gory sight, mind you, merely a shocking one. There was no blood, just an empty hole in his body where his organs should’ve have been. Kindly give up on questioning it, dear reader. Honestly though, that was nothing. The truly shocking part was when six(ish?) dogs jumped out of his abdomen and began to circle around him, promptly growing six extra limbs each, simulating canine-arachnids. They then started to howl the chorus of “Who let the Dogs Out”. You know, nightmare fuel. To make matters worse, The Arachnid Man started to bounce up and down in a really awkward manner that failed to match the melody. He pointed his thumbs towards himself every time the classic “woof” part was barked. So that was…Yeah.

From there, things just got progressively more insane, to point where everything that was happening actual started seem completely sane, and strangely soothing. Keep in mind, no music played throughout the course of this performance. So, in almost meditative trance whilst gulping down our food, Domina and I witnessed quite the checklist of what not to do on a first date. Where should I even begin? Should I start with the endless strand of web full of pink spiders that The Arachnid Man inexplicably began to pull out of his mouth? Then proceed to jump-rope with it? Or perhaps I should start at the point in which the dogs suddenly seemed to become rabidly angry, only to transform into arachnid-elephant variants…Whom, of course, began making love to one another. What else? It’s hard to decide where to start, dear reader. You know what, I think I will start at the point in which The Arachnid Man began sneezing booger web designs, which instantly hardened and allowed him to channel, who else, Spider-Man, by climbing his own hardened vertical booger webs (I guess it’s kind of rip-off after all.).

But where should I end? I’m having a tough time deciding between the moment in which The Arachnid Man began giving two extra-large tarantulas belly rubs, whom began to creepily giggle, of all things, or the moment where he tore out his eyes (again, no gore.), before throwing them both like Poke Balls straight towards the audience. One of them transformed into a firework of kittens and puppies that cutely burst into the audience; of course none of the animals were harmed, and actually found some very loving new owners within the audience. Unfortunately, Domina and I didn’t catch a pet. The other eyeball simply transformed into a giant Brown Recluse with angelic wings. She began singing “Glory to God in the Highest” before promptly having an epileptic seizure. I’m still not sure whether or not that was actually part of the show.

Suffice it to say, this performance was disturbing, abnormal, creepy, shocking, nonsensical, and was something that not even a deranged lunatic could conceptualize…and it was freaking awesome. I really don’t have much more to say, the insanity speaks for itself. You either love it or you hate it. I’m simply one of those guys who loved it. Unlike the Cocoon Twister, the insanity here felt strangely coherent through all its incoherency. Of course, this really wasn’t a show for the faint of heart; I saw some pretty uncomfortable faces in the audiences, as well of a few who left the circus during the showing. But for every one of those people, there was a person like me who was enthralled by every second of it. As for Domina, she was like me, and seemed to love it. Not a hint of arachnophobia to be found in her, and it made me quite proud. Her sudden lack of fear was still somewhat jarring, as if she flipped a switch labeled “arachnophobia” in her brain into the “off” position. But I didn’t question it, and enjoyed the moment.

It would seem, however, that AWW does have a problem with properly advertising its attractions, although on some level, I feel that shock and surprise was to this show’s benefit. Still, this, coupled with the fact that it was such a divisive show among the viewership prevented me from giving it a perfect score. It’s also a strangely revolting thing to showcase at what is essentially also a restaurant. I felt no disgust whilst eating though; I suspect it had something to do with the pills we took, or else related to some kind of pheromones in the air that prevented an adverse appetite to external stimuli.

 

Score: 4 arachnids out of 5

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Forest Adventure

  The second show was much more…“Normal”, for lack of better term. Relatively speaking of course, but still. I think the former show should have been held after this one, as this one could have helped ease people in, while the insanity of the former show may not have had the effect of pushing some away.

Despite the circus locale, this show was much more of a theatrical, story-driven experience than the last one. The sets were just arranged in a less traditional, circular manner, tailoring itself to the setting. Again, I’ve renamed the actual title of this show for brevity’s sake. The official name for it was ‘The ones’. For the purposes of this review, I felt the title to be too nebulous, but I have no real qualms about it otherwise.

In fact, I have no real qualms about this theater performance, period. If the last show was the surreal, quintessential freak show to make Dali proud, then this more or less did the opposite. It still had a fantastical quality, but it was engaging and immersive in a way the former show wasn’t. In other words, this one was believable. This is ironic, as everything in this performance was quite clearly staged, from the shifting environments to the actors, whereas the last show was authentic in every way (impossible as it would seem.). Of the two shows, this was probably my favorite. If there is anything that I love more than sheer preposterousness, it would be sheer preposterousness that I could believe as being real; a cohesive story told within the bounds of a cohesive world.

The show didn’t come with a formal introduction, it instead simply started in a relatively organic fashion. I think that this was to its benefit, as blurring the lines between fiction and reality is one of the linchpins of immersion, and reality doesn’t come with a formal introduction. 

            Before I go any further, I would like to make something clear; when I said that this show was immersive, I meant immersive, not just immersive, but immersive. Immersively so, I’d dare say. Perhaps even to an immersive extent.

            So, aside from the engaging world and the stellar story and writing itself, what made this show so absorbing? Well, it was all about the presentation, dear reader. You see, even the best theatrical performances of our day have the distinct disadvantage of being a live performance. This means that the creators of the show have a lessened ability to “hide the strings”, so to speak, unlike, for instance, in a movie. The closing of the curtains to make scene changes, the slightly over-indulgent acting, the candid mistakes, the “prop” aesthetic, all of these serve to break the illusion of the fiction in some form or another.  Some would argue that this is part of the charm, but I digress. My point is, none of these stage show realities seemed to apply to The Ones, none that stood out to my memory. Granted, I’m a petty human with a petty brain, but nonetheless, the way this show managed to suspend my disbelief was unprecedented. The sets all felt organic, rugged, and real. The auditory experience was as transcendent as it was powerful. Better than any cinema I’ve ever been to, despite the single point of audio output. The weather changed throughout the show, and not just within the context of the show. The entire ceiling shifted to reflect the weather Ala’ Harry Potter, we felt rain drops when appropriate, the drops all conveniently missing our food, of course. There were subtle yet effective aesthetic alterations to the environment outside the actual show area to give a sense that the audience was on location…I could go on, dear reader. But I won’t.    

Without further ado, I’m going to give you the rundown of the show, from start to finish. Of course, I can’t even begin to do the show even a fraction of one percent of justice, but perhaps I can give justice to a fraction of a fraction of that. If you would like to avoid spoilers and hope to experience this circus yourself one day, then I recommend you skip the following section. Short story; this show was as engaging as it was fantastically immersive. Long story; read on, foolish one, I’m not going to give you the long story in a single sentence.

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            The initial setting of the show seemed to take place in a relatively spacious and lived-in tree house of sorts, fit with three sizeable and colorful spiders huddled around a table, playing Texas Hold ’em. Standard stuff. Each spider had a distinctive appearance and personality, not dissimilar to the former giant arachnids of the Cocoon Twister, although these guys felt more real, so to speak. The smallest, baby blue spider, the protagonist of the story, had  a simple, “everyman” kind of the personality; “the only sane man”, to put it another way. He was clearly a leaning optimist, but never to the point of delusion. He was willing to be cynical when he had to be, but certainly preferred not to be. He possessed a striking level of curiosity, but remained ever cautious. He was easiest of the three spiders for the audience to latch onto, a natural choice for a protagonist. His name was Fone, and he kept his two friends down to earth, whilst at the same time pushing them to be the best they can be. This, of course, leads to me to his two friends. The first was only a slightly larger, red and orange striped arachnid. He had a far surlier and cynical attitude; he was clearly uncomfortable with the “gooey stuff.” He was ceaselessly sarcastic, but never in a truly mean-spirited capacity. He liked a good adrenaline rush and the thrill of adventure, though always found a way to complain about the situation. His name was Bone, and although he could be a bit of a thorn, he ultimately had a likeable heart of gold that he didn’t want anybody to see. The final spider was a Daddy Long Legs spider, the largest of the three. His name was Phone, and frankly, he was a bit of a clumsy doofus. The sarcasm that Bone exuded always seemed to fly above the head of this big guy, and he seemed to stumble into something every other scene. But I can’t actually call him stupid, as there were a few scenes in which he really stepped up his game to an unexpected and extraordinary capacity, making his other two friends look like bumbling morons. I suppose you could call him a savant, dear reader. Phone was an effective comedy relief to be sure, while still serving a purpose to the story. This is a spider who arguable too optimistic, a bit too excited and joyful about life. Certainly not in an inauthentic sense, but it a more child-like, naïve sense. It was endearing, to a point. Jar-Jar Binks, he was not.

            So how could I spell out their personalities so succinctly to you, dear reader? Was it spelled out for us, the audience, in a circus brochure? No, no…As I’ve said, the writing for The Ones was exquisite. Nothing had to be told, everything was organically demonstrated. I could discern their personalities over time simply by the way they bounced off one another, and how they responded to the world around them. I wasn’t even paying attention to their personalities, I simply witnessed them. That, dear reader, is the sign of good writing (and good actors.).

            The story itself revolved around mystery attackers that recently began prowling the great woods that these spiders lived in, causing mass destruction of spider colonies. For much of the show, the attackers were portrayed and referred to in a highly nebulous-evil sense, an intangible dark force, despite also having an objective physical presence. Not too dissimilar from ‘The Heartless’ within the Kingdom Hearts series.

            During the opening, character-establishing poker scene, we eventually transitioned to a horrific yet incredibly powerful scene showcasing the tragic downfall of a spider colony. This is prompted by phone, whom was telling a true story. You wouldn’t think it possible for a human to feel such a level of empathy for arachnids, but there you have it. Despite the fantastical forest colony setting (incredible set design, to be a broken record.), the fall of the colony was harrowing, and strangely realistic. The horror of losing your home was cranked up to eleven during this tale-sequence. The shadowy entities of destruction truly inspired fear not just in our heroes, but within the audience. It’s as if they represented the embodiment of fear, and the evil that it entails. Their weapon of choice always seemed to be fire. The ever-welcome, spontaneous sort…In other words, the spiders stood no chance.

            There’s something marvelous about the aforementioned transition that I haven’t touched upon yet. You know how in movies, a good transition tends to be so seamless, that you barely even register it? Whereas in a traditional stage play, such a transition doesn’t exist. Well, I should rephrase that; such a transition doesn’t exist outside of AWW. Risnorf’s circus really pulled out all of the stops with this one. Without the use of illusionistic/computer-graphic effects, the creators of this show managed to craft a physical environment that literally managed to morph itself into an alternative environment, actually hiding actor-extras within the original. Pay attention to how I phrased that, dear reader. The atomic structures of the environment haven’t been altered in the slightest; they are exactly as they were; they have instead, been transformed. Like the Transformers. Only in a far smoother, quicker and “curvy” manner, and with a lack of explosions to boot. It was the most incredible practical effect that I’ve ever seen. That moment of transition was worth the price of admission into the park alone; it was as if we were in a movie, where the physical laws of the world contorted to the will of a mysterious director. This transition didn’t just occur once, of course, but any time a scene called for it. Multiple orgasms, indeed. Anyways, I believe I’ve sang my due praises, let’s move this summary along, shall we?

             So what is the inciting incident that gets the adventure part of this forest adventure started? Well, it was a simple matter of skepticism. Fone and Bone both found Phone’s story to be engrossing and well-told, but when claimed it was a true story, the two spider friends felt he was being far too hyperbolic for that to be the truth. Bone laughed him off, while Fone was a bit nicer about it. This lead to an amusing argument, which eventually led to a decision to go adventuring into the great beyond to discover the truth, a feat the trio have always dreamed of, but lacked the courage or willpower to get started. To be more accurate, it wasn’t so much a decision as it was a matter of loyalty. You see, the skepticism of the two spiders angered Phone to a surprising extent, as it was already established that he was the happy-go-lucky sort. This gave a certain conviction to his story, and he mustered the willpower to go adventuring into the unknown regions of the forest to prove the truth, foolhardy as ever. There was no talking him down from his decision, so out of loyalty to their friend, they decided, with pressure from Fone, to undertake it alongside him. Thus we have the bulk of our story.

             From here on out, it was a roller coaster ride for the audience, of the best sort. We got philosophical discussions with the “old wise sage” to make Yoda proud, we got vicious Spider-Krakens, we got butterfly riddles ala’ Gollum, we got a rabid nest of scorpions, we got the full works. It was spectacular, but was truly spectacular was the climax of the story. The truth about the entities were finally unveiled, and…This is a serious spoiler, mind you…As it turns out, these evil entities were just humans exterminating giant spiders out of fear for their own survival. This made me wonder…Before the extraordinary creation that is Arachnid Wonder World, I may have done the same thing in the situation the humans found themselves in. I believe most people would have. This isn’t me being cynical, but prior to AWW, we all saw spiders as nothing more than hideous creepy crawlies…Being terrified of spiders was basically a cliché. It’s a simple but powerful lesson; Fear might not be the root of all evil, but embracing too much fear can certainly make it seem that. In other words, cowardice and ignorance are a dangerous combination of traits. Perhaps that is the essence of most monsters.  I wonder how this made Domina feel…

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            Suffice it to say, dear reader, this show exceeded expectations. I believe my rating is fully warranted.

Score: 5 arachnids out of 5

 

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It doesn’t need to be said dear reader, but I have no respect for your intelligence so I’m going to say it anyway; this circus was an extraordinary surprise, and that’s putting it lightly. I overheard on the wire (the wire being an extremely lengthy stretch of spider silk that zigzagged throughout the park that carried microscopic spiders that would randomly whisper things.) that this was a temporary attraction and restaurant, an experimental one at that. Domina and I were one of the last guests to experience this wonderful circus, it was to be closed down the following week. Fear not, dear reader, you will still have the opportunity to experience it, but you will need to wait a couple of years. It was allegedly going to be “immeasurably improved”, and to be made “more grand then ever”. I’m not quite sure how much better it can get, dear reader.

             Now, I’m sure you’re thinking ‘What about the aesthetics of the circus. You made such a fuss about that!’. I do apologize for reading your mind, I understand that it’s a breach of privacy, but rest assured, dear reader, that the initial subpar appearance of the circus was part of what made it so great. Don’t get me wrong; first impressions are still important, and in the end it was the actual shows of the circus as well as the cuisine itself that made it superior. However, I cannot diminish the value of the lousy aesthetics. Perhaps it’s already obvious to you, but the aesthetics managed to set our expectations woefully low...and thus, when we actually got into the meat of the circus, both figuratively and literally, the wonder and joy of it was doubled by virtue of how much it contrasted from the lackluster digs. It’s bad marketing, to be sure, but man, oh man; when you give a rich guy a million dollars, it’s just another day in the life for him. But if you give a homeless guy a million dollars, well, you’ve changed his life. To a less extreme extent, that logic can be applied to Risnorf’s Circus. I have no doubt about the intent.

As Domina and I exited the tent, blinking away the bright sun, I pondered what to do next before experiencing an immensely unpleasurable sensation. From the way Domina doubled up, she was experiencing the same level of discomfort that I was. It was akin to the world’s worst stomach ache multiplied by a factor of a million. We were basically both painfully paralyzed by our thunderous stomachs, as if we were giving birth to rabid little monsters. To top it all off, two large and white fuzzy spiders (fit with a red cross on their backs) came jumping into view seemingly out of nowhere, and promptly began pulling off our pants quite aggressively. Initially we were both, understandably, quite horrified. Sexual assault by virtue of arachnids? Now there’s a story for the shrink. But alas, we ended up being quite grateful for the spiders’ assistance. You see, we had forgotten about the “always-hungry” pill we had ingested, and how the effects wore off the moment we exited the circus tent. To avoid health problems, a “purge” of the excess food was initialized. This went about as pleasantly as you would imagine. By “purge”, I of course mean an uncontrollable eruption of fecal matter. Now, I’m not one for toilet humor, but facts are facts, and that is what happened. When we started purging ourselves, the paramedic spiders pulling our pants down suddenly made a lot more sense. We quietly thanked them after the fact, a bit too embarrassed to be properly grateful, but they seemed understanding and friendly enough. Our excess waste simple fell through the web flooring of AWW. I’m not sure what happened after that, but I’m positive the creators of AWW wouldn’t simply allow our waste to simply fall into the city. I imagine some kind of web-shoot system was implemented to prevent such a thing, although I’m not sure how that would stop the more liquid waste.

Ugh, I’ve focused upon that humiliating ordeal long enough. Personally I’d like to just forget that it happened. I’m not going to hold the unfortunate symptoms of that pill against the circus as a whole. We consented to discomfort; if anything, the fact that the purge happened so briefly would be a plus to the overall score. I’ll take short-term pain over the long-term symptoms that most drugs come with.

I know this was quite a long post, dear reader, I thank you for putting up with me for so long. You must have a lot of spare time! Not as much as I do, mind you. The next attraction review will be a shorter one, but no less exhilarating… Far more so, in fact! Stay tuned. 

 

Final score for Risnorf’s Circus: 4.5 arachnids out of 5

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