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Cirque’s ‘R.U.N’ at Luxor wants you to forget the casino

This is the Double Down Saloon on steroids.

Grit, grunge and graffiti is the motif for “R.U.N,” the Cirque du Soliel production opening for previews Thursday night at the former Criss Angel Mindfreak Live theater on Luxor’s casino floor.

We mention casino floor as both a locator and reminder, because Cirque would like you to forget your environment as you amble into its first new show on the Strip since “Michael Jackson One” launched six years ago. No, Casino Vegas gives way to an inner-city Vegas, where the inhabitants freely wield the Krylon, the entrance is bathed in bright neon (LED, actually) and the entire jungle is asphalt.

“The idea is we are transitioning people into the world of ‘R.U.N,’ and when you’re walking through you’re getting away from the slot machines and that ding-ding-ding that feels very casino,” says Bruce Rogers, the show’s set designer who also devised the walk-in attraction leading to the “R.U.N” theater. “Visually and sonically, we want you to forget you’re in a casino pretty quickly.”

Point taken. The trek to the theater is itself a production show. Highlights: Walls covered in fresh graffiti art, a gift shop with “R.U.N” sloppily painted in red ink on the floor, a simulated freeway overpass as you walk toward the security stations, intentionally cracked flooring, an unmarked door that says “Don’t Knock” (so you knock and get screamed at by what might be a drug lord on the other side), a phone booth that rings (answer it and there is more angst on the other line), a tattoo studio where you can be “inked” with laser light, a car still smoking after ramming into a wall and a manhole cover stamped with “R.U.N.”

That’s after being let into the space by a gleaming overhead sign featuring the show’s logo, laden with LED strips designed as neon lights. This signature visage extends far outside the box office, as if reaching for visitors who are meandering toward Starbucks with no plans for the night.

Inside, the restrooms (at least, the men’s room) are further decorated with graffiti art. The loo decor reminds of the Double Down’s distinctive and organic art effects, though without the appreciably musty fragrances.

“We are transitioning people into the world of ‘R.U.N,’ to make it obvious that there is something different through these portals,” Rogers says. “It’s neon, but it’s not, it’s the new technology, but we wanted to capture some of the old-Vegas, neon world, and everything I love about the Neon Boneyard.”

Cirque also presented two scenes from “R.U.N,” as a wet-the-whistle to the Thursday’s preview opening. True to Cirque’s advance description and some of the rehearsals I caught in Montreal in May, the show is a linear, graphic-novel story that begins with a Las Vegas wedding gone violently haywire. Chase scenes, on electric motorcycles and in what looks to be a 2019 Dodge Charger, are plentiful.

Though the scenes were out of context and just a sample of the full production, it is a clear departure from Cirque’s proven formula on the Strip. There are no mimes, no clowns, no oversized babies, no wild-maned usher tossing popcorn at those walking into the theater. There is, however, a graphic reference to “SERGI .. A COLD BLOODED KILLER” as a fight breaks out on the Charger, which charging along at probably 130 mph.

“We don’t usually throw people off buildings and set fire to them,” “R.U.N” producer Gabriel Pinkstone says. “These are new things to us. How we tell the story through those new elements has been very exciting.”

And what about this virtual reality version of Las Vegas? There are desert scenes, too, and a moment where a car chase ends with a splash at Lake Mead, and the opening wedding scene hits to the city’s matrimonial lineage.

“It was finding different pieces of iconography that we could gravitate toward, and kind of re-interpret for our show,” director Michael Schwandt explains. Pinkstone adds, “It’s a heightened reality. It’s not meant to be a documentary about Las Vegas.”

Judging from all the innovation and investment, it’s an effort worth toasting. Someone pour this crew a round of bacon martinis. Kats! Coding

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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