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Theater Review: "The Old Man And The Old Moon"

The cast of PigPen Theatre Co.’s The Old Man and The Old Moon. Directed by Stuart Carden.
Photo credit:
Jim Cox

I see lots of plays and a fair number of theater events, but theater magic is harder to come by.

I’m not talking about sleight-of-hand; it’s more like sleight-of-brain stuff that PigPen Theatre offers during its run at the Old Globe through June 18.

“The Old Man And The Old Moon” is a 90-minute excursion into dreams, memory, regret, fantasy and some of the most imaginative stagecraft around – and it’s augmented by music of the indie-folk type from a versatile seven-member ensemble of singer/actor/musicians.

Collectively (and in varying configurations), they play guitar, mandolin, banjo, violin, accordion, percussion  – and an occasional liquor bottle.

PigPen consists of seven actors who met about a decade ago in theater classes at Carnegie Mellon University. One of their professors – Stuart Carden – co-directs this piece.

It’s a simple story about an Old Man (Ryan Melia) whose job it is to refill the moon. You see, the moon has a little hole in it and the light leaks out a little at a time into a bucket.

So every once in a while (say, once a month), the Old Man has to take that bucket, climb up and refill the moon with liquid light.

One day the Old Man, tired from his job, refuses his wife the Old Woman’s suggestion to go to town and dance.

He is such a stick-in-the-mud about it that she (Alex Falberg) hums a nice little tune, then decides to take their boat and go off on her own. 

This forces the old man to abandon the moon and go after her. He ties in with a group of sailors (who seem vaguely Irish, if accent is to be believed). 

That’s it.

The magic comes in the stagecraft, as we follow the Old Man’s adventures in his search for his wife. The Globe’s ceiling is festooned with strings of white lights, as are both balcony overhangs.

Actors cavort on a crowded, multi-level wooden set where a piece of cloth becomes a boat (or a sea), a few mops and a plastic jug make a lovably shaggy dog, and shadow puppets take us over hill and dale and on bumpy water excursions.

It’s a bit reminiscent of “Peter And The Starcatcher,” which originated at La Jolla Playhouse and went on to a Broadway run. 

In addition to being a touring band, all of these versatile actors (Melia, Falberg, Matt Nuernberger, Dan Weschler, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen and Arya Shahi) play multiple roles in this show.

Lydia Fine is responsible for the terrific set, costumes and puppetry.

She’s aided by Bart Cortright’s fine lighting and Mikhail Fiksel’s crisp sound. 

It’s best to just sit back and let “The Old Man And The Old Moon” wash over you. No need to ponder any great messages (though points about responsibility and love are made). But mostly, this is just good storytelling.

The details

“The Old Man And The Old Moon” plays through June 18, 2017 at the Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park.

Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm

Tickets: (619) 234-5623 or theoldglobe.org