With ‘Passengers,’ The 7 Fingers take the next step

The cast of the The 7 Fingers and ArtsEmerson production of “Passengers.” Photo: Alexandre Galliez

BOSTON — Against the video backdrop of a train in motion, eight passengers are engaged in a variety of mundane activities. Eventually the riders reveal themselves to be more – much more – than mere commuters or travelers.

That is the nexus of the American premiere of “Passengers,” now at the Cutler Majestic Theatre through Oct. 13 under the auspices of ArtsEmerson.

The 7 Fingers, or are they known in their native French, Les Sept Doigts de la Main, have come down from Canada and found an artistic home with ArtsEmerson, having come to Boston for the seventh time in the 10-year history of the organization, each time showcasing the troupe’s startling skills in a new and intriguing way.

The most ingenious, perhaps, combined the circus arts with the art of cooking in “Cuisine and Confessions” in 2016.

In style and its use of modern circus arts, The 7 Fingers have drawn comparisons to Cirque du Soleil, but that troupe has evolved into larger, more lavish theatrical spectacles in large arenas, whereas The 7 Fingers’ performances remain more intimate and accessible, even while ratcheting up their own production values.

It would be just too simplistic to describe The 7 Fingers as a circus troupe. While they perform activities and tasks most often seen in a modern circus and focus on human feats, they have steadily upped the ante when it comes to the theatricality that allows what they do to be seamlessly integrated into a larger theme – in this case, the story of eight very different people as they travel on a train, eventually breaking out to do something extraordinarily difficult, athletic, daring.

Along the way circus artists’ feats of daring are married with the worlds of theater, illusion. music and dance in ever more creative ways

So Sereno Aguilar Izzo of Mexico can be both a world-class juggler and a renowned trapeze artist; Freyja Wild of Australia, who so effortlessly kept different hula hoops going all over her body and can lift hoops with her toes and set them a-spinnin’, is now singing like an angel; Sabine Van Rensburg of South Africa performs with aerial silks, and on the duo trapeze and Chinese pole.

An acrobat may be helping set up netting or for an aerialist who will attach himself to the Chinese pole simply by using the strength in one of his feet.

The eight people, as they travel on a train, think about various connections in their lives. As each person drifts off into his or her own world, everyday activities are amplified into displays of strength, coordination and fearlessness. And, again, the production values, under the direction of the company’s co-artistic director Shana Carroll, credited with the original idea for the piece as well as the choreography, are what lift it up to another dimension.

That includes the music of composer Colin Gagne and the high-definition projections of video designer Johnny Ranger, an impressive backdrop to the proceedings.

The question we ask is where are they going and why? What is waiting for them? And what is it about us as people and the romance of a train, and the connection we feel to our fellow travelers?

As director Carroll notes in the program, “Each of us follows a track of sorts, twisting and turning through valleys and plains … Confined inside that wagon we are a forced and incongruous community, joined in a moment of suspended limbo between two lives…”

The 7 Fingers and ArtsEmerson present “Passengers.” Creation and production by Les 7 Doights de la Main. Original idea, direction and choreography by Shana Carroll. At the Cutler Majestic Theatre through Oct. 13. Artsemerson.org