What Does a Fantastic Mad Scientist Eat for Lunch?

The cast of Cirque du Soleil’s “Varekai” dropped by the flagship location this week to preview the odd world they’re bringing to the Pete.

Photo by Benoit Camirand. Illustration by Pittsburgh Magazine.


In the world of Cirque du Soleil, when Icarus fell from the sky, he dropped into a forest volcano and found himself in the land of Varekai.” In the gypsy Romany language, Varekai means “wherever;” this past Wednesday, wherever meant the original Primanti Bros. in the Strip District.

A trio of characters — including The Skywatcher (above) and The Guide — stopped by the landmark sandwich shop around lunchtime. They greeted the smattering of customers at the counter and then helped themselves to a spot behind it; the Skywatcher helped himself to someone’s beer and fries.


Though that character is billed as “a mad scientist and ingenious inventor” and would probably at home in the wondrous world of sandwich making, his nest-like costume — which requires a bare chest and fronds sprouting from his waist — had veteran Primanti Bros. employee Toni Haggerty worried.

“Toni?” a woman on the other side of the counter asked. “Are you going to teach [cast members from] ‘Varekai’ how to make these famous sandwiches that Pittsburgh is known for?”

Toni eyed her three visitors and pointed at The Skywatcher. “Not him. He don’t have no clothes on. He can touch the beer.” It was a command to which the Skywatcher happily assented.

Photo by Benoit Camirand


The Guide (above), with a light bulb bright on his head, was the one who got to follow Toni to the grill to assemble the steak, cheese, fries and coleslaw sandwich that some might say is Pittsburgh’s own version of flying too close to the sun (at least calorically).

This weekend the Petersen Events Center becomes the “wherever” of Varekai, as nearly 60 performers take to the stage — and sky — in Cirque’s musical acrobatic style.

— Amy Whipple

To help you get in the mood, PM Editorial Intern Kaitlin Zurawsky shot behind-the-scenes photos (see below gallery) during yesterday’s run-through.

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What’s happening this weekend?


  • Blow glass, enjoy fine fare and partake in other fun activities at Ward Home’s Picture. This event, to be held at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. — Saturday, 6-9 p.m.


  • More than 300 volunteers plan to participate in J-Serve, an annual service event for teenagers in the Jewish community. — Sunday


  • Indulge in four courses and eight wines at Pino’s special dinner; fifteen percent of each $75 ticket will go to the Susan G. Komen Pittsburgh Breast Cancer Foundation. — Sunday, 2-4 p.m.

Gallery: "Varekai"

Categories: The 412