Reviewed by Karla Froehlich
Packrat: The name of a rodent that gathers junk and sticks to create a huge mound in which it nests. Also native to North America is the packrat person who gathers junk (sometimes even sticks) at their nest. And now, also native to North America is a brand new puppet play called Packrat created by Concrete Temple Theatre, hailing from New York City and co-produced with Flint Repertory Theatre. What’s “native” about a play from NYC? The company’s Co-Artistic Director, Renee Philippi, is a Kearsley High School and University of Michigan-Flint graduate.
In Packrat, we witness the splendor of linear visual effects, blended with music and appropriate sounds to punctuate actions, subtle and effective lighting, a transformative set, and of course, simple and clear puppets in a beautiful dance with their handlers. Like a feast for the senses, this fable, written and directed by Philippi, amalgamates every aspect of this theatrical spectacle with a sweet and gentle story of friendship, perseverance and love. All this stuff is brought together in fabulous packrat style…and it’s beautiful.
The production uses six puppeteers who dance between puppets, sometimes operating the wee arms of the characters, sometimes moving grasses that twirl to become trees or sagebrush, sometimes being a mountain. There are three puppet versions of each main character that help tell the story: a “real” puppet, a misty kind of see-through puppet for dream sequences, and shadow puppets for distant scenes. Each puppet moves by different means, challenging the puppeteers and holding the attention of young and old. The action was seamless and breathtaking, athletic and relaxed, smooth and energetic.
Packrat is about the interconnectedness of all beings, the interdependence of all beings, the redemption, rebirth, and renewal of all beings, including the earth itself. Packrat brings every eclectic element together and makes it simple and beautiful…somewhere you might like to nest.
In the eyes of a child, Packrat could be spoken of simply. A packrat stole too many things that are forbidden, his community sends him away, he comes back to help his community. Circles are meant to be unbroken and the creatures of the world can find a way to live in peace and harmony.
Packrat is about an hour long and the trip was massive. Adults were delighted and children thrilled by the opening night performance that was followed by a brief talk back where audience members were handed the puppets to examine and operate. These are not your Mother’s socks with button eyes!
Packrat continues for three more performances only at The REP: 2 pm and 7 pm today and 2 pm on Sunday. Come for an enjoyable time, stay for an informative time. Contact them at the box office 810-237-7333 or online at www.FlintRep.org/tickets