‘Passengers’ Captures Imagination Through Movement and Circus Magic at The Old Globe

Taking the train? Why not fly? Passengers, the newest touring production to open at The Old Globe and a manifestation of Montreal-based troupe Les 7 Doigts De La Main (The 7 Fingers), is perhaps, as a technicality, theatre, but in actuality much more than that. It is dance, song, movement, and acrobatics. There is a script yet the show demands a degree of improv to accommodate the sheer level of physicality that the performers imbue in their work. They are audacious, fearless, and evocative. And yet, despite the complexity, the show is simple in its premise, presenting a cadre of scenarios that happen when we are passengers – together – on the train.

Acrobats fly through the air while the actors look on.

Andrew Sumner and Beto Freitas, with the cast of Passengers at American Conservatory Theater. Photo by Kevin Berne.

The performers for this production, under the direction/writing/choreography of Shana Carroll, are phenomenal, boasting impressive backgrounds which include the National Circus School (Eduardo De Azebedo Grillo, Kaisha D.W, and Santiago Rivera Laugerud), Cirque de Soleil (Beto Freitas, Mandi Orozco), and a range of 7 Fingers productions (Marco Ingaramo, Nella Niva, Andrew Sumner, and Méliejade T. Bouchard), among other claims to fame. 

A dancer leaps at the foreground while other actors stand behind.

The cast of Passengers at American Conservatory Theater. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Yet it is what they do together, in and around one another, that makes this acrobatics/aerialist/juggling intermission-less stretch of pure entertainment really work. Drawing on Carroll’s metaphor of parallel train tracks (the dichotomy of happy and unhappy emotions), and infusing anxious transfers, bittersweet arrivals, silence, and the lack thereof, the passengers come alive. Their rapport is lively and well acted, their feats unbelievable, and their execution flawless.

I remember commenting a few years ago that my high school college and career center let me down; after all, I had no idea that this type of work could be considered a career that I could pursue after high school. Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t have a prayer of achieving this level of expertise… but these artists absolutely knew this is what they wanted to do. They worked hard at their craft. They achieved. And – lucky us – they share their expertise and skill and steal our breath away in Passengers.

Two aerialists are suspended - one on a hoop and another on a cable,

Kaisha Desselines-Wright and Dina Sok in Passengers at American Conservatory Theater. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Beautifully lit by Éric Champoux, the show is set on a sparse stage (necessary to accommodate quick changes and tumbling) in front of Ana Cappelluto’s stunning scenography, which incorporates photos, shapes, text, and even portraits of the performers themselves. Periodically, the space is garnished by a set of sturdy chairs, a couple of rolling racks, or equipment; when this happens, pay attention – something special is about to happen.

Doubtless Passengers will continue to wow audiences for the entirety of its run. I know that, in the evening I attended, it certainly earned its gasps and oohs. Audiences can catch it through July 30 on the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage at the Old Globe Theatre.

Access the digital program here.

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