Review: Urban Odyssey (Loco7; as part of Panamerican Routes / Rutas Panamericanas)

Looking up idly before the show began, an unexpected thing caught my eye.

A puppet with a very large head was perched on a balcony overlooking the stage.

The blurb describing Urban Odyssey – running until May 20th at Theatre Passe Muraille – says, in part, that the show deals with the allure and disillusionments of the American Dream.

Puppetry hadn’t occurred to me though as a way to do this.

But maybe now is the right time for – quite literally – larger-than-life depictions of the monstrous economic and social forces that are out there. Presumably, they shape the pursuit of the American Dream the most.

And so as an audience address was made, introducing Panamerican Routes / Rutas Panamericanas, I could barely wait for its inaugural show, Urban Odyssey by the New York-based company Loco7, to begin.

My mouth fell open a few times during the show.

The first time was when a half-man half-horse takes the stage. There are several puppeteers listed in the program, so I’m not sure which one played the horse. But this guy was fantastic; wandering the cacophonous metropolis onstage with a sympathetic innocence.

He was like a doe-eyed – or, I guess make that foal-eyed – Disney character.

There weren’t any giant puppets onstage in that sequence. But the poignancy of the horse, with his cumbersome movements in the context of the other business-like characters was, for me, deeply felt.

Another jaw dropping moment came with a bit of tent puppetry performed by Maura Nguyen-Donohue.

What is tent puppetry? It’s a term I just made-up. But it’s the only way I can describe how Ms. Nguyen-Donohue transforms a polygon fabric shelter into a kinetic figure.

It wasn’t exactly larger-than-life – though Urban Odyssey does feature some fifteen-foot marionettes – but again, so poignant. Entrapment, awkwardness and vulnerability came through crystal clear to me.

When the juggernaut-like marionettes are onstage, the imagery was very satisfying. It felt like such a perfect representation of how intimidating too-big-to-fail corporations are.

Aside from visceral shock, and fantastic rhythms that accompany the marionettes, they weren’t as cool as the smaller scale sequences. But let me put that on a bell curve: Urban Odyssey, for me, is almost indescribably imaginative. And just because I felt more connected to other sequences it is not to diminish the majesty of the technical and creative achievements of those eye-catching behemoths.

Urban Odyssey is one of the most exciting, invigorating shows I have ever seen. So I’d strongly, strongly recommend checking it out.

Details

– Urban Odyssey is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Street) until May 20th – this Sunday
– The remaining performances are 7:00 PM on May 19th and May 20th at 2:00 PM
– Tickets are $30.00, with special prices for students and seniors
– Tickets can be purchased at the Theatre Passe Muraille box office