The Old Man and The Old Moon
A seafaring journey with folk music comes to the New Victory Theater.
As New York theatergoers decide which of this season's shows to see next, they may want break away from Broadway for an evening to take in PigPen Theatre Co.'s The Old Man and The Old Moon, now playing at the New Victory Theater. This extraordinarily imaginative, wonderfully written, beautifully produced staging, which includes lively music performed by seven gifted actors, is a rare example of true theater magic.
PigPen Theatre Co. is a band of seven theatrical brothers who began performing together in 2008 as freshmen at the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. Since then they've made names for themselves with their collaboratively written and, with Stuart Carden, directed The Old Man and The Old Moon. While the New Victory specializes in shows for kids, this finely executed production, with its toe-tapping indie-folk music, accomplished puppetry and shadow play, and touching story, is a draw for audiences of all ages.
An old man (Ryan Melia) has the time-consuming job of refilling the leaky moon with light every night. His wife (Alex Falberg), however, becomes tired of staying at home all the time after years and years of marriage, so she steals away in a boat without telling her husband where she's going. The old man then sets out on a frantic search for her around the world, impersonating a famous seaman to get a crew of sailors to help him follow his wife in their ship. But during the old man's absence, the moon, with no one to fill it, disappears, causing climatic disaster on land and the high seas. This leads to all sorts of adventures, including being trapped in the belly of a fish, as the old man tries to find his wife and return home to refill the moon.
The high-energy ensemble — which also includes Matt Nuernberger, Dan Weschler, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen, and Arya Shahi, all in multiple roles — leaps about a wooden set that looks like a cross between a schoolyard gym and a rustic curiosity shop. As they act out the story, silhouettes of shadow puppets depict the sea journey while dozens of starry lights glimmer above the massive, multi-tiered structure.
Imaginative use of ordinary objects distinguishes the show: A couple of blankets suddenly transform into a skiff; a small spotlight and flashlight create a leaky moon; a few mop heads and a plastic bottle become an adorable dog puppet. A battered upright piano sits nestled into one of the set's corners and later transforms into part of a hot-air balloon — yet another example of PigPen's brand of inspired stagecraft.
When the band busts out the banjo, accordion, and guitars, the stage fills with a whole new kind of magic. Many of the show's songs come from the group's debut album, Bremen, and prove that these fellas are accomplished musicians and singers as well as actors.
Innovative productions like this one dazzle not with special effects and expensive sets but with imagination and talent. In The Old Man and The Old Moon, PigPen Theatre Co. has created an immensely satisfying, illuminating production that may inspire children to try their hands at devising their own creations at home. Of course, it also doesn't hurt to remind adults what real creativity is all about.