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Review: Cirque du Soleil Impresses with Insect-Inspired OVO

Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Entomology is not usually associated with elegance, but Cirque du Soleil's immersive and insect-inspired touring production, OVO, brings breathtaking beauty to the world of bugs.

Performed at Value City Arena on the Ohio State University's Columbus campus, OVO tunnels under the ground to unearth a vibrantly vivacious ecosystem teeming with talented bugs.

The show begins with an exciting buzz, bolstered by the faint recording of chirping crickets played over the speakers, but mostly caused by the anticipatory murmurs that ripple through the crowd. A large video screen and a complex set -- designed by Gringo Cardia to resemble insects' subterranean colonies -- take the place of the sawdust and striped fabric of a stereotypical circus, but these innovative elements become secondary to the performances that unfold center stage.

In each act, writer and director Deborah Colker's choreography masterfully matches cirque skills with the natural behavior and mannerisms of the insects that inspired the characters. The show's most grandiloquent, high-flying routines are tempered with intimate pieces that blend lyricism and strength.

Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

OVO begins by showcasing the fast-paced juggling of several ants, who adopt an animated ardor as they use their legs and feet to keep larger-than-life props painted like kiwis and corn spinning in synchronization. This is followed by the almost-painful pulchritude of a dragonfly's hand-balancing routine, which takes place on a vine-like helix that sprouts from the misty stage.

In the Spanish web duo, an aerial ballet is performed by two butterflies who soar above the stage, hands linked in a tight grip as their inverted bodies dangle precariously from a rope. The show also features several spiders, who exhibit skills ranging from chimerical contortion to a slack wire act that places a unicycle on an impossibly thin wire suspended 15 feet in the air.

Other insectile abilities are on display in the flying act, which sends coppery scarabs somersaulting between elevated platforms, and the diabolo solo, where a firefly flings spinning spools into the arena's rafters before catching them on a string when they plummet back to earth.

Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Between acts, three lovable characters, The Ladybug, The Foreigner and Master Flipo, channel their seemingly endless supply of effervescent eccentricity into a humorous love story full of slapstick gags. These comedic interludes, which seem to appeal to the younger members of the audience, unconvincingly convey the overarching romantic narrative. Nevertheless, they produce hearty laughs and provide a welcome cathartic break from the show's overall intensity.

An amalgamation of intricate artistry, astounding athleticism and Cirque du Soleil's signature aesthetic, OVO spins a web of enchantment that commands the audience's attention from beginning to end.

OVO will be performed in Columbus May 17-21.

Tickets start at $53 and can be purchased through the Cirque du Soleil website.

Value City Arena is located in the Jerome Schottenstein Center at 555 Borror Drive.

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