“Flora & Ulysses” Flies Into Oregon Children’s Theatre

It’s not a bird. It’s not a plane. Holy Bagumba! It’s a . . . squirrel? A flying, typing, poet of a squirrel with super-squirrel strength. Who’s always hungry.

Meet Ulysses, a squirrel whose life changes after he gets sucked up by a behemoth of a vacuum cleaner, and Flora, a 10-year-old cynic who turns to comic books to cope with her parents’ divorce. Together, with the courage they inspire in each other and everyone around them, the fearless duo fights villains, injustice, and malfeasance in this adventurous and heartwarming tale.

Oregon Children’s Theatre brings Kate DiCamillo’s novel Flora & Ulysses to life with a clever comic book theme. The two-story set is designed like comic-book panels. The frames double as rooms and screens that show projected images that set the scene, reveal thought bubbles, or share Ulysses’s poetic musings. The show has something for everyone: slow-motion action and hijinks, a story of love, acceptance, bravery and loyalty, and a good dose of humor—both cynical and slapstick.

My nine-year-old and I are fans of DiCamillo, so it was a treat to watch another stage version of one of her books. (Last year OCT put on The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.) Scenes of the flying squirrel leaping into action and deadpan deliveries by Flora’s neighbor and vacuum owner Tootie Tickham and her precocious great-nephew, William Spiver, had us laughing. Some quieter, poignant moments slowed things down a bit and sometimes didn’t hold his attention as well. Still, the story of friendship and courage opens your heart to a world of possibilities.

At 75 minutes (with no intermission), the run time is just about right for young audiences. The show is recommended for ages 7 and up, and although some of the text projected on the screens is also spoken, it’s helpful if young viewers can read it on their own.

Flora & Ulysses runs every weekend through March at Winningstad Theatre downtown. If you’re driving, get there with enough time to park and walk. (If you’re going to an 11 a.m. show, keep in mind that street parking is free Sunday mornings.) Arrive a little earlier so the kids can create an animal superhero to add to various scenes—comic-book style—just outside the theater. (My son’s rhinoceros flashed a colorful cape and had tear-gas power.) And stick around afterwards for a meet-and-greet with the cast. Be sure to give Ulysses a pat on the head—and maybe something to eat.

Flora & Ulysses runs through March 26 at Winningstad Theatre (1111 SW Broadway).

Jade Chan

Jade Chan

Jade Chan is a native Portlander who returned to her roots after short stints on the East Coast. She remembers a time when Lloyd Center was an open mall, the Pearl consisted of warehouses, OMSI was where the Children’s Museum is now, and traffic jams were rare. A freelance editor and a mom of two, she enjoys sharing her love for the arts and her (ever-changing) hometown with her family.
Jade Chan