THEATER | “Ovo” is a gentler, kinder Cirque du Soleil

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The mother of a friend (yes, the mother of a friend) says that she tried cocaine once, but has never tried to do it again—because she understands that you can never replicate the rush of your first time, that it’s always a disappointment thereafter. Cocaine wouldn’t normally be the first drug you’d compare Cirque du Soleil to, but after seeing my third Cirque show, I’m starting to wonder whether I’ll ever get as much out of a Cirque show as I did out of Kooza—my first.

The Cirque show currently playing in the Twin Cities is Ovo, in residence under its own Grand Chapiteau (that is, tent) in the Mall of America parking lot. As planes roar overhead, Ovo takes viewers on “a headlong rush into a colourful ecosystem teeming with life, where insects work, eat, crawl, flutter, play, fight and look for love in a non-stop riot of energy and movement.”

The best thing about Ovo is its dramatic set, featuring a huge disappearing egg and inventive costumes for performers representing various species of insect. Cleverly constructed grasshopper suits give performers outsize hind legs; other performers use their own legs as eyeball-topped tentacles; and, in a standout bit, a performer with outsize Slinkys for arms and legs tries to stand upright.

The story line, involving a love connection between a cheery, chubby bug-girl and her egg-bearing suitor, is passably entertaining. It occupies more time than the vague (but perfectly sufficient) story in Kooza, but it’s not as rich and theatrical as the clowning in Alegria.

Here’s where my job as a reviewer gets challenging. Am I just jaded to the ways of Cirque, or are the stunts in Ovo just not as impressive as those in Kooza or Alegria? Ovo, which premiered in 2009, is even newer than the 2007 Kooza, but it doesn’t raise any bars over that show—literally or otherwise. Compared to the other Cirque shows I’ve seen, Ovo is elegant rather than extreme. It was created and directed by the Brazilian dancemaker Deborah Colker, and its music and visuals have some of the soft, sassy style associated with the girls (and boys) from Ipanema.

It’s a nifty trick to make a multi-(multi-multi-multi-)million dollar show feel like a gentle respite. The question for you to ask yourself in deciding whether or not to see Ovo is whether that’s the kind of rabbit you want to see pulled out of Cirque’s expansive hat.