Once again, Arts Emerson has hosted “The Seven Fingers,” a perennial favorite from Canada, most recently for the United States premiere of “Passengers” at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre.
The Seven Fingers troupe must be named for the acrobatic finesse with which they navigate the on-stage ropes, wires and poles which the contemporary circus movement summons for small stage presentations — small stage, that is, in comparison to the “death-defying” heights of the traditional ‘Big-Top” circus tents of my youth.
I didn’t much miss the dizzying heights of those days, since these performers were able to demonstrate their breath-taking expertise at more accommodating distances — almost eye-level in some acts.
Looking at the cover of “Passengers” program I see again but still don’t quite believe how Conor Wild uses the Chinese pole so deftly for his acrobatics — levitating and descending with a sure nonchalance I wish I could discover when navigating my own stairs.
In addition to thrilling solo acts, “Seven Fingers” privileges the unity of the troupe — often ending a stunt not when a lone performer lands triumphantly on his/her two feet, but is thrown, lifted, or swiftly passed to the out-stretched hands/broad shoulders of the troupe, leaving us onlookers with a pleasantly tingling feeling of, “How did that happen?”
Indeed, venturing boldly out into the world, but at the same time keeping close, trusted company is the vivid theme of “Passengers.”
Accompanied by an imaginative musical score and dazzling, immersive visuals, The Seven Fingers troupe assays to investigate and safely tread together upon every far-flung landscape one might take on a life’s journey.
Instead of traditional circus “heights” these acrobat/passengers leap more metaphorical heights and depths, peaks and crevasses, at vertiginous speeds which only many hands can surely navigate, and even then, narrowly.
I’m thinking of Blanche Dubois, of Tennessee William’s classic drama “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Blanche, a bruised Southern aristocrat attempting persistently to pick herself up in a down-at-the-heels 1940’s New Orleans, memorably, spunkily warbles: “Ah have always depended on the kindness of strangers!”
And that street-wise, compassionate declaration is the vivid lesson and the “high” entertainment of “Passengers,” a multi-dimensional show that never “drops the ball” (except in juggling).
But I’d bet seven-fingered Sereno Aguilar Izzo drops balls more for comic effect than gravity as he entertains bored, fidgety passengers on an endless railway journey with a veritable Milky Way of whizzing white objects.
My only quibble is about two thirds of the way through this hour and a half show, I got antsy — kind of numb on my otherwise comfortable theater seat. I wanted to wander, throw some darts at balloons, toss rings at bottle necks, maybe score a flossy mound of cotton candy!
But the critic’s job is not an easy one. And art is infinite…
(The 2019-20 Arts Emerson season includes theatrical performances, musical concerts, film screenings and book readings. For information on upcoming events, visit artsemerson.org.)