Performers take the stage Thursday for the 'Banquet,' which closes out the show with music and dancing and butterfly confetti during the dress rehersal of Cirque Du Soleil's 'OVO' at the Santa Monica Pier. The show runs through March 25. (photo by Paul Alvarez Jr.)

They’re having a bugfest at the Santa Monica Pier, and it has nothing to do with sand fleas. It’s the dazzling Cirque du Soleil production “OVO,” a festival of whimsical bugs doing what bugs, and Cirque performers, do best: climbing, slithering, swinging, jumping, crawling and bouncing.

A giant ovo (“egg” in Portuguese) dominates the stage as a panoply of magnificently costumed bugs swarms around it in wonderment, chittering and clicking to each other so expressively that you can actually understand the conversation.

Suddenly, the egg explodes, leaving a splattered placenta from which countless species of other bugs emerge. And in a tremendous burst of exuberant life, they transform the stage into a bubbling one-ring circus.

A large dragonfly balances himself on a pole. He is followed by six female red ants from China who juggle huge blown-up kiwi slices and corncobs with their feet while flinging themselves onto the upstretched feet of the ants beside them, who continue to juggle. It’s a mind-boggling performance.

A long rope descends from the ceiling with a gauzy cocoon wrapped around it. Slowly, a chrysalis begins to emerge, climbing up the rope as she comes to life.

She is followed by two fully grown butterflies who perform a rope ballet, graceful and exciting as any pas de deux ever performed on the ground.

Interspersed with these elegant performances is a humorous side-story involving a loudly blustering maître d’ in an extravagantly colorful costume, a red beer-belly, and waving antennae, and a budding love affair between a glittering “foreign” fly and a sweetly corpulent ladybug.

There are also numerous holes in the stage that allow the bugs to suddenly rise or fall or, in one spectacular sequence, stand upside down and kick their legs in unison. And there’s a “human slinky” in a sort of “Michelin Man” suit who manipulates and contorts himself and his costume into everything from a giant to a human pretzel. (If you’ve ever seen the dance troupe Pilobolus, you’ll know what I mean.)

But the two acts that bring your heart leaping to your throat is the one that closes the first part of the show and the one that is the finale. In the first of these, six aerialists fling themselves by trapeze from one side of the big top to another. They are 40 feet up — equivalent to jumping out of a fourth-story window, and they perform with grace and speed — and courage.

The finale, on the other hand, features 20 artists in cricket costumes and a profusion of trampolines from which they jump to the top of a 24-foot vertical wall. Once on the wall, they leap over each other, climb up and down, and bounce.

Nearly all 55 performers are somewhere onstage most of the time, doing buggy things in the background or jumping around the continually changing set.

Aside from the artists themselves there is a splendid nine-piece band that plays a Brazilian-themed score. And finally, there must be words of special praise for Deborah Colker, the writer, director, and choreographer of this production, and, above all, for Liz Vandal, who designed the costumes that kept the whole ensemble buzzing.

“OVO” will continue just beside the Santa Monica Pier in the big blue and yellow tent every day but Monday through March 25. Tickets may be purchased at the box office or online at

Cynthia Citron can be reached at

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