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The Old Man and the Old Moon

PigPen Theatre Co. Anchors WTF Season

By: Charles Giuliano - Aug 08, 2014

The Old Man and the Old Moon: A Play with Music
By PigPen Theatre Company
Directed by Stuart Carden & PigPen Theatre Company
Scenic and costume design, Lydia Fine; Lighting, Bart Cortright; Sound, Mikhail Fiksel; Stage Manager, Vanessa Coakley; Director of production, Eric Nottke
Cast: Ryan Melia (Old Man), Alex Falberg (Old Woman), Matt Neurenberger (Matheson), Dan Weschler (Mabelu), Ben Ferguson (Callahan), Curtis Gillen (Lleweyen), Arya Shahi (Cookie)
Nikos Stage
Williamstown Theatre Festival
August 6-17, 2014
New Victory Theatre
229 W. 42nd Street, NYC
September 26 to October 13, 2014
ArtsEmerson Paramount Center
559 Washington Street, Boston
November 19 to 23, 2014

Hey kids of all ages particularly those under thirty.

And now for something completely different.

Holding down the anchor leg of the Williamstown Theatre Festival season is an outsider production by the free wheeling PigPen Theatre Company The Old Man and the Old Moon: A Play with Music.

For the past four seasons now emeritus artistic director, Jenny Gersten, has programmed at least one fringe company. The intent is to bring fresh emerging talent and new theatrical developments to Berkshire audiences.

The results generally, shall we say, have been mixed.

Last year, for example, that meant the perfectly dreadful The Blood Play by New York’s The Debate Society. To be fair some folks actually liked it. I was scolded for a scathing review by a distinguished actor friend who told me that he loved the company and that the actors were his friends.

So, take that, wise up and get a life dude.

If all we see is what is produced by established Berkshire theatre companies, well man, we are suffering from dramatic hardening of the arteries.

This is the kind of stuff which audiences in major theatre hubs are regularly exposed to.

Formed while students at Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, in 2008, PigPen has enjoyed considerable success. They were the first company to win for best play two years in a row at the NYC Fringe Festival. Their first run of The Old Man and the Old Moon played for 100 performances in New York at The Gym at Judson. It earned raves from New York critics.

Only rarely do these cutting edge companies tour the provinces.

For which we should be, kindah, like, well oh so grateful and stuff.

If you know what I mean.

Take last night in the intimate Nikos Stage for example.

There was a mumble jumble set onto which in a staggered manner the actors ambled out and started to play a variety of instruments.

They were missing a player and asked if we had seen him.

Eventually he showed up and proved to be the percussionist Arya Shahi who plays a minor character Cookie. Like the other six members of the ferociously egalitarian company they play a number of characters. While Shahi sticks to drums the others play a variety of stringed instruments; piano, accordion, fiddle, banjo, guitar, and tuned water bottles.

The program notes inform us that in this group everyone does everything including total collaboration and invention of their script and a vast range of shadow puppets and special effects.

The idea of a myth and fairy tale for kids of all ages evolved when one of the group recalled a made up bedtime story. It was then elaborated and embellished with constant changes. During rehearsals they try to make each other laugh at invented bits.

What works gets incorporated into performances.

Wicked cool.

It seems that the reason that the moon waxes and wanes is because it has sprung a leak. When it is empty it is the endless task of the Old Man (Ryan Melia) to climb a ladder and fill it with a bucket of liquid light.

This goes on forever and ever.

As you may well imagine being the moon and all that.

But his wife, The Old Woman, played with a scarf and falsetto by Alex Falberg, wants to go dancing. It seems they have never been to town. A woman has needs you know. Like going dancing every millennium or so.

Of course he argues against it. As husbands tend to do. Like, who is going to fill up the moon while we’re gone?

She wants to go by boat but he will have none of it.

Too risky at night. Instead he will walk.

Then poof, in the middle of the night, she’s gone.

Sailing off to the mythical West in the little boat.

Abandoning the moon, causing havoc for the earth, he scrambles after her with many ensuing adventures conveyed through shadow projections.

Including finding himself in a deep dark place. Encountering Pericles Llewellyn MacWallander played by Ben Ferguson he is informed that they are in the belly of a huge fish from which there is no escape. Eons ago his fellow prisoner became resigned to his fate and Zen like has chilled out. He may even be dead after years without food or drink. The Old Man is causing him agita.

The Old Man of course is eager to find his wife and get back to the moon now in critcal need of being filled with liquid light to end the chaos that prevails over the chaotic world.

Hey, doesn’t this sound like Gilgamesh?

If you just settle back and let it happen the enthusiasm, energy, youth and invention can waft you along to Never Never Land. For the most part the audience seemed to be having fun.

Oh yes, in the end they lived happily ever after.