‘The Old Man and The Old Moon’ Shines Brightly (4 Stars)

‘The Old Man and The Old Moon’ A Play with Music, by Pigpen Theatre Co.  Directed by Stuart Carden and Pigpen Theatre Co.  Presented by Arts Emerson, 559 Washington Street, Boston.  Through Sunday, November 23.

We all know the 28-day cycle of the moon’s waxing and waning, but it wasn’t always so – this is the premise of Pigpen Theatre Company’s The Old Man and The Old Moon, a folktale about how the moon got his cycle, so to speak.  

An Old Man (Ryan Melia, with a mellifluous singing voice) is responsible for pouring liquid light into the moon each night, keeping it constantly full and bright. This routine has made him rigid and somewhat neglectful of his wife, the Old Woman (beautifully played by Alex Falberg). The Old Woman longs to go to town, or on a boat ride to the West. But the Old Man can’t leave his duties. When her husband doesn’t even remember how he and the Old Woman first met, and can’t identify the pretty tune she’s humming, the Old Woman takes matters into her own hands and sets off for adventure. Panicked, the Old Man sets out after her, and this is where the story begins.    

The seven talented young men that make up Pigpen Theatre Co. met as freshmen at the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in 2007, and have been creating music and theatre together ever since. As a cast, they are all fully present in the reality that they’ve created, which is kind of amazing to watch.  There are no weak links – all of them are standouts with excellent comic timing, vocals, and harmonies. Lydia Fine’s scenic design is marvelous – multi-leveled wood and posts with a glistening sea tucked underneath the stage, lights dangling here and there, colored bottles placed before the sea. It has the appearance of a very funky playground, which serves the actors well. Fine and Pigpen also have created some wonderful and very funny shadow puppets, that are not only clever but move the action along.

The Old Man and the Old Moon has lots of fine takeaways – don’t work so hard, make time for your loved ones, everything goes in cycles, what is lost can be illuminated and found. But the show could use some editing – despite the talent and tools, parts of the story lagged.  My friend and I both remarked that we should have brought our teenaged sons, as I think the various perils that the Old Man goes through would appeal more to boys – men setting off to sea, ships that explode in battle, chaps getting swallowed by fish. Certainly the teenagers sitting in the audience were enthralled, whereas I found it tedious.

With two successful albums to their name, “Bremen” and “The Way I’m Running”, multiple theater awards, and a children’s novel in development, Pigpen Theatre Co. is a group to watch.  I look forward to seeing what else this multi-talented company will come up with. For more info, go to: https://artsemerson.org/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::permalink=old_man_old_moon