The Old Man and the Old Moon. New Victory Theater (see Off Broadway). By PigPen Theatre Co. Performed and directed by Alex Falberg, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen, Ryan Melia, Matt Nuernberger, Arya Shahi and Dan Weschler. Co-directed by Stuart Carden. Running time: 1hr 30min. No intermission.
The Old Man and the Old Moon: In brief
The seven wunderkinds of PigPen Theatre Co. mount a no-tech work of folktale theater in which an old man tracks his wife to the end of the world (meeting sailors, a "prison fish" and a lonely ghost along the way). Combining storytelling, shadow puppetry, Irish-tinged tunes and youthful vigor, the lads win you over with simplicity, creativity and honest emotion.
The Old Man and the Old Moon: Review by Raven Snook
Memories, even joyful ones, can be elusive. That's the lesson both the titular old man (young Melia, remarkably convincing) and I learned at the PigPen Theatre Co.'s revised revival of its Off Broadway hit, which I raved about just a few years ago. Though its feeling of enchantment stayed with me, I had lost the specifics of this twisty neo-folk story about a cranky codger who abandons the fragile moon to chase his runaway wife (Falberg) around the world. Of course it's the telling, not the tale, that so bewitches. The old man's adventures on land and sea, in the belly of a whale and at the end of the earth are inventively conjured by these seven college ex-classmates, who seamlessly switch specialties from acting to puppetry to playing Irish-folk-inflected tunes on piano, fiddle, drums and banjo. Umbrellas become swords, shoehorns fish, and a plastic jug and bathmat transform into a scrappy mutt who brings the disparate characters and storylines together.
Co-director Stuart Carden helped the troupe streamline The Old Man and the Old Moon from two acts to one at the Williamstown Theater Festival this past summer. And while it feels slicker than before, it retains PigPen's signature sense of DIY wonder that's so infectious you almost want to leap onstage to join in the fun. That desire to be part of the action is particularly acute at the New Victory Theater, since the audience is mostly made up of families, and children are naturals in the imagination department. But don't make the mistake of dismissing The Old Man and the Old Moon as a kids' show. It's a transcendent theatrical experience for all ages that proves you don't need to look for magic in the moon or high-priced Broadway shows: It's already right in front of you.—Theater review by Raven Snook
[The following review is from a 2012 production of The Old Man atnd the Old Moon at the Gym at Judson.]
The seven wunderkinds of PigPen Theatre Co.—a troupe of recent Carnegie Mellon grads who have racked up critical accolades and two Fringe Festival awards in four years—mount the kind of no-tech folktale theater that either melts your heart or gives you heartburn (I’m firmly in the first camp). Like their previous efforts, their first full-length production uses a winning combination of storytelling, shadow puppetry, Irish-tinged tunes and youthful vigor. An old man (Ryan Melia, weary beyond his years) who tends to a hole in the moon abandons his post when his wife leaves to follow a song. As our aged hero tracks her to the end the world, he voyages with a friendly crew of AWOL sailors, gets swallowed by a “prison fish,” befriends a lonely ghost, survives a near apocalypse and finally “finds” himself.
Like all PigPen shows, The Old Man and the Old Moon celebrates the power of imagination. These guys are witty, multitalented and adorable (if things had turned out differently, they probably could have started a very successful boy band). But what sets them apart from their peers is unflagging sincerity. While many stage artists in their twenties trade in snark, cynicism and obscure pop-culture references, these lads win you over with simplicity, creativity and honest emotion. They shoot for the moon and reach it.—Raven Snook