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Cirque du Soleil’s insects leave audience buzzing

WHAT: Cirque du Soleil — “OVO”

WHEN: 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Covelli Centre, 229 E. Front St., Youngstown

HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $52 to $127 and are available through Ticketmaster.

YOUNGSTOWN — Last week I bought a can of wasp and hornet killer to take out a nest they were building above the steps to my front porch.

After watching Cirque du Soleil’s “OVO” Friday at the Covelli Centre, I have some pangs of guilt.

“OVO” lets you see life from the insect world’s perspective, although even real bugs might be in awe of some of the feats the Cirque artists perform during the show.

Even by Cirque standards, the storyline is slight. There’s a budding romance between a ladybug and a prickly bright blue insect, but the essentially wordless production — outside of the occasional exclamation of “Wow!” or “Ovo” (which means “egg” in Portuguese) — mainly strings together a series of aerial and acrobatic feats. Any message about preserving the ecosystem or living in harmony is more inferred than explicit.

Then again, those feats definitely depend upon being in sync. The precision with which the cast of about 50 performers executes its moves on stage truly is jaw-dropping. The fact that Friday’s performance was the first in front of an audience in five weeks (the production had a hiatus as it moved from Europe to start its North American tour in Youngstown) made the exactness of those moves even more spectacular.

In one of the first sequences, performers bounced high above the stage among a trio of poles. They would plummet down the pole only to grip it with their legs at the last possible second before splattering on the stage like a bug against a windshield. An audible gasp could be heard in the half-full arena the first few times they pulled off that trick.

As impressive as the artists were, it also made me appreciate the artistry of the costumers, who not only create outfits that give the show a visual pop but also allow the performers to accomplish those feats. I think my favorite costume of the night was a caterpillar that extended and contracted in ways that it was difficult to figure out how any one person could make it move the way it did.

Death-defying feats continue throughout the evening. Catherine Audy and Alexis Trudel play a pair of butterflies who meet and bond in the sky. Talking to the press earlier this week, Audy described it as an “aerial ballet duet, a very romantic, sensual act.” It was all that and more. The pair brought an effortless grace to the physically demanding routine.

The first act closes with a 10-person trapeze act with no actual trapezes. Instead, performers somersaulted around three podiums while being caught and tossed by members of the team. There was a net underneath them, but it wasn’t needed (except for the way it was incorporated into the end).

The second act features a contortionist spider who bent in ways that made my aging back both scared and envious, and some crowd interaction as both the ladybug and the blue bug used audience members to create some jealousy.

The finale was a gravity defying routine with a troupe of crickets, a pair of trampolines and a climbing wall that featured moves that didn’t seem humanly possible. If I hadn’t seen the performers backstage earlier this week, I might have suspected the cast members were some kind of genetic mutation, like Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly.”

At my house, the wasps have moved from the front porch to the light fixture above the garage for their nest building. We’ll see how long “OVO” delays the purchase of another spray can.

Have an interesting story? Contact Andy Gray by email at agray@vindy.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.

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