Suspended some 45 feet in the air, under the Grand Chapiteau (Big Top) at National Harbor, a silky, cream-colored cocoon is undulating gracefully. The butterfly (aerialist Inna Mayorova) is making her escape. Kept aloft only by a rope, she’s joined by another butterfly (Maxim Kozlov). The pair fly and leap in a playful dance, like figure skaters gliding in unison—only their sheet of ice is thin air, as a giant flower blooms nearby.
Cirque du Soleil has established a reputation for wowing audiences around the world with astonishing physical theatrics and imaginative production values. OVO delivers something more. During the nearly three-hour trip into the insect world, where crickets literally bounce off the walls and red ants use their feet to play with their green kiwi treats, the joyous energy of the performers remind you that once, a long time ago—you were a child, awestruck at the wonder and color and magic of the world. Back then, the most important thing in your life was having fun, grinning and laughing until your face hurt.
This is definitely a show that will mesmerize kids, but the evening I attended, it seemed that it was mostly the adults who were captivated by the jaw-dropping power of the performers’ bodies as they contorted, supported other bodies and flew from one end of the stage to the other. Those same grown-ups also gave up a lot of laughs as the night progressed.
OVO is the Portuguese word for egg, and the huge egg is borne on the back of a quirky, energetic fly named The Foreigner (Francois-Guillaume Leblanc). He misplaces the egg after becoming smitten by the beautiful Ladybug (Michelle Matlock). Their romantic missteps, overseen and in due course fixed by the insect community’s leader Master Flipo (Joseph Collard), provide the humor and serve as nice transitions to the real action—the intrigue of the bug world. The trio communicate using chirps, squeaks and clipped phrases—English with slight French accents—a little exotic, but you get what they’re saying to you and to each other. The audience becomes an interloper into the mysteries of how our creepy-crawly friends work and play, underscored by Brazilian music played by the 8 piece band, fronted by vocalist Marie-Claude Marchand, intermingled with the gentle croaking of crickets and cicadas.
Li Wei, one of four spiders, dances and does handstands and rides a unicycle upside-down as if on a balance beam—only the beam is a slack wire nearly 20 feet above the ground. Amazingly, as the wire is raised and lowered, Li moves up and down a 45-degree angled hill made by that slender wire, still pedaling the unicycle with his hands.
Using what looks like two big swinging chairs at both ends of the tent, and about 60 feet above the ground, 8 muscular scarab beetles swing out one at a time and fly with outstretched arms to a middle platform, diving head first and landing on the shoulders of 3 other scarabs stacked like a pyramid. You hold your breath—you know they’re not going to drop each other or fall—but it’s still pretty scary.
OVO saves the most amazing performance for last – controlled yet gleeful anarchy breaks out as 20 crickets and spiders —one after another—run at full speeds, bouncing off trampolines and scaling a 26-foot vertical wall—without ever bumping into each other in an amazing display of teamwork, athleticism and physical power while the fireflies support by shining their green lights on and off near the rust-colored wall.
It was so much fun! Seeing OVO should be prescribed as a short-term treatment for those suffering from the acute anxiety caused by being disconnected from the joy and power of the child that still exists inside us all.
OVO runs Sept. 9 through Oct. 24. Performances will take place under the Big Top at The Plateau at National Harbor. Special discounts: Family and student tickets click here. (Choose ‘Washington (area) to see the specials.) All other tickets here. Directions and Metrobus schedules here.