Theater

REVIEW: Bugs fill Wolstein Center with Cirque Du Soleil

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Before the show began, bug characters swung atop tall poles, swaying precariously back and forth over the audience. Other bugs approached those audience members, buzzing in their faces, while bug catchers swatted at them with oversized bug catching nets.

Cirque Du Soleil’s traveling show, “Ovo,” hadn’t even started yet on Wednesday, April 27, but the stage inside Cleveland’s Wolstein Center was already getting strange. Besides the bugs, a huge inflatable egg was illuminated on the center platform, glowing ominously.

The buzzing sounds crescendoed. Lights started flashing. With a whirlwind of performers entering the stage, the egg deflated and receded into the background, making room for the acrobats to take over. The show had begun.

“Ovo” had a loose narrative of a fly and a ladybug falling in love. These two characters took over the stage whenever equipment needed to be set up in the background. They themselves didn’t take part in any over-the-top performances, but served as a unifying, comedic theme.

The love story, though, isn’t what I was the most interested in during “Ovo.” I wanted to see the acrobats, the jugglers, the amazing feats that Cirque is so well-known for.

It started with jugglers dressed as red ants, who sat on the floor, leaned back and threw large kiwi slices into the air with their feet. Grasshoppers joined the mix with large pieces of corn.

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Though most Cirque Du Soleil performers made their acts look easy, there was one ant in the middle of the stage who seemed to be struggling; his legs trembled whenever he threw another person into the air. By the end of it, I felt relieved for him. His legs needed a break.

In the first act, a definite highlight was two butterflies, who swung in perfect harmony with each other on ropes suspended high above the audience. Sometimes one held on to the other with a grip on just one hand or foot.

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A performer dressed as a spider balanced on a slackwire, then took things a step further; he carefully placed a unicycle on the wire, pedalling it upside down with his hands, while the entire performance was raised into the air.

The funniest part of the entire show was a short diabolo routine, by an energetic firefly character. He threw spools into the air, then spun them on a string. The actor smiled up at the audience, while spinning three spools together, then pushed his foot between the still-spinning marvel.

 

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But the most explosive part of the show had to be the performance by grasshoppers bouncing off of trampolines and holding onto small grips placed in a grid on the back wall. Not only were there more performers in this act than any other, but they also executed their formations with the most precision; at times, the performers appeared to be juggled themselves, as they alternated positions on the wall and leapt up and down from the trampolines.

In the end, the performances were what made Cirque Du Soleil an artsy kind of circus, and the plot was what kept everything cohesive. Kids giggled each time the fly and the ladybug characters interacted, and the entire audience gasped when human beings flew 40 feet into the air.

For a second, they appeared to be real insects, flying effortlessly in the auditorium. And that’s no small feat.

Cirque Du Soleil will continue performances in Cleveland through May 1.

 

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