There once was an Old Man whose job it was to fill the moon. You see there’s a leak in the moon, it’s very small…And it was the Old Man’s job to leave his little cottage by the Cliffside everyday, take that bucket and climb up into the sky to keep the moon filled to its brim.”
Following an argument, the Old Man’s long-suffering wife, The Old Woman, runs away and sails off in a boat. After discovering her absence, he sets out to find her. Along the way there are perilous adventures at sea, including shipwrecks, a whale, and chaotic complications due to The Moon not being filled
For The Old Man and The Old Moon, The New Victory Theatre’s stage is piled high with scenic designer’s Lydia Fine’s dazzling, enormous unit set composed of aged wooden platforms, ramps, and towers. There, with simple stagecraft the Old Man’s odyssey is enacted.
The low tech effects include miniatures, puppets and people projected on sheets as shadows, a ship composed of cloth and poles, the sea as a long piece of blue fabric unfurled and waved about, and choreographed slow motion movements for battle effects with hurled cannonballs. The lighting design of Bart Cortright and Mikhail Fiksel’s sound design also contribute notably to the ingenious technical achievements of the production.
A dog is represented by a plastic gallon water jug, with its cap as the nose, adorned with mop heads, and is one of Ms. Fine’s wonderful puppets. She also created the clever, modest costumes that depict the presence of many diverse characters.
PigPen Theatre Co. is a group of seven, youthful male Carnegie Mellon Drama School graduates who formed this collaborative troupe as freshman in 2008. They have created and staged several other acclaimed shows since forming this group.
During the prologue, they enter and play musical instruments that include the banjo, acoustic guitar, fiddle, accordion, glass harmonica, hammer dulcimer, and later the piano. They perform their original score that is a charming blend of folk and rock style songs throughout.
Ryan Melia, without makeup, but with an abundance of talent has much to do as The Old Man. Through movement, a subtly aged vocal tone, and elderly temperament, he is totally convincing as the character, bringing wistfulness, melancholy and enthusiasm to his sterling characterization.
With a towel over his head and a using a slightly high-pitched voice, Alex Falberg, appears as The Old Woman, and conveys the appropriate weariness, sadness and humor. He also plays other roles and is equally proficient in all of them.
Matt Nuernberger, Dan Wechsler, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen and Arya Shahi are the other tremendously gifted company members. They all vividly portray the many denizens of this fantasyland that include sailors, captains, shopkeepers and clerks. Their often rapid, simple transformations from one character to another are a testament to their collective command of the art of storytelling.
Following the shows’ premiere in 2012 at New York City’s Gym at Judson, it was then further developed at The Williamstown Theatre Festival in the summer of 2013. It then traveled to The Writer’s Theatre in Chicago to great success. Co-director Stuart Carden united with PigPen for that production, and it is this outstanding version that is presently playing in New York City.
Recurring laughter, gasps of astonishment, and measured silences confirm that for the many children in attendance, The Old Man and The Moon is absolutely enchanting entertainment and certainly for adults as well.
The Old Man and The Old Moon (through October 13th, 2014)
Williamstown Theatre Festival and PigPen Theatre Co.
The New Victory, 209 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 646-223-3010 or visit http://www.newvictory.org
Running time: 95 minutes without an intermission