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.
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.
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.
– 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