Great Eggspectations: Cirque Du Soleil’s Ovo

 

 

 

 

by Samuel L. Leiter

 

Ovo, which means “egg” in Portuguese, is about the cycle of life, or at least that’s the loose theme around which this typically eye-popping incarnation of the Cirque du Soleil franchise revolves. Like other Cirque productions (this one’s been touring since 2009), the theme—for all its ecological self-importance—is little more than a thin excuse to integrate its musical, acrobatic, and comedic elements into a colorful spectacle for kids of all ages.

 

Ovo’s egg theme is connected to life among the insects, offering costume designer Liz Vandal spectacular opportunities to create gorgeous costumes for the multitude of ants, dragonflies, butterflies, fireflies, scarabs, spiders, fleas, crickets, flies, and ladybugs that populate this utopian civilization living somewhere under a rock.

 

Spiderman may be busy elsewhere but you should nonetheless eggspect to see human insects flying high, scuttling low, and bounding everywhere as a sizable international (12 nations) team of incredibly well-balanced, strong, flexible, springy, perfectly built, and other ways humanly inhuman (or superhuman) artistes perform their remarkable routines.

 

 

Format-wise, the show follows the standard Cirque pattern of a series of eggceptionally (sorry, hard to resist) well-choreographed (by writer-director-choreographer Deborah Colker) feats of contortion, balancing, juggling, aerial derring-do, wire walking, and trampoline leaping, supplemented by clownish characters.

 

As usual, the latter, for which I have little patience, combines weird vocal sounds with an imaginary language—sprinkled with an occasional “Oh, boy” and the like—as they act out a basic story in the broadest pantomimic gestures.

 

Ovo’s tale has to do with the love affair of a fat, lonely Ladybug (American Michelle Matlock) and a slender, buzzing fly (Swiss Jan Dutler), their romance mediated by the community leader, a clownish bug called Master Flipo (Austrian Gerard Regitschnig). As usual in Cirque productions, a couple of front-row audience members are shanghaied into the slapstick shenanigans.

 

 

Six musicians play Brazilian-influenced music, much of it determinedly rhythmic to accentuate the gymnastics, creating the offbeat, otherworldly sound so familiar from other Cirque productions. And, of course, there’s a singer, Brazilian Julia Barros Marmund, to voice the atmospherically suggestive but verbally meaningless lyrics.

 

Performed in the three-quarters round in Brooklyn’s huge Barclays Center, it makes extensive use of video projections—mainly of life as seen from among leaves and blades of grass—on its single wall, a 26-foot-high span fitted with climbing grips.

 

For all its insect comedy inclinations Ovo’s acrobats do their mostly familiar, albeit brilliantly eggsecuted, routines with only the flimsiest relationship to the so-called narrative. We get six Chinese ants juggling shapes representing kiwis and corn, as well as each other; an American dragonfly balancing his way along a twisting stalk; a Canadian butterfly emerging from her cocoon while hanging from the rafters; a pair of Canadian butterflies swooping about while hanging from dual straps; and a French firefly showing his masterful Diabolo skills.

 

 

Then there’s a Ukrainian Creatura, a truly novel caterpillar-like insect with Slinky-like extensions;  six multinational scarabs tossing each other around in a Russian Cradle act; a multinational trio of spider-like contortionists; a trio of fleas from Ukraine and Russia demonstrating their athletic balancing skills; a Chinese spider on the slack wire; and, the pièce de résistance, a multinational team of 10 crickets using trampolines and air tracks to defy gravity by flying onto and off that upstage wall.

 

Ovo isn’t the best Cirque show I’ve seen and, at two and a half hours, it has its longeurs, especially when the clowns are occupying valuable stage time. Still, no matter how you like your eggs, you’ll be grateful that, despite the dangers, no one in Ovo ends up scrambled.

 

Ovo: Cirque du Soleil. Through July 9 at Barclays Center (620 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn); Coming August 30 to September 3, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY. www.cirquedusoleil.com/ovo

 

 

Photos Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

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