TR Robertson ..The latest production at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park is a story wrapped in a play wrapped in a fairy tale wrapped in a fable mixed with a bit of a musical. It is a wonderfully entertaining, creative, whimsical production that delights young and old alike. Written and produced by The Pigpen Theatre Company, a group of young men that started their own brand of theatre and music when they were attending Carnegie Mellon University of Drama in 2007, they have won numerous awards for both their theatrical productions and musical albums. This imaginative play is told with the use of a multi-leveled set, puppets, shadow puppets, sheets which can in one moment be a boat and in another a hot air balloon, flashlights, musical interludes using banjos, guitars, banjos, an accordion, drums, piano, & a jug and most importantly talented actors playing a multitude of roles (as well as an occasional human prop).
Photos by Jim Cox
The Pigpen Theatre Company refers to itself as an ensemble, using all of the members of the group to design the landscape of the play. They collaborated from the beginning stages of this fairy tale about a man tasked with keeping the moon full of light, adding a multitude of changes and revisions to reach the final production the audience sees on the stage. The story is a simple one. A man has been tasked with the job of keeping the moon filled with light, as the moon has a slight leak and light drips out throughout the day. He is married and his wife is bored and wants to add adventure to their life, even if it is just going into the nearby town. One day as the old man is filling the moon, he returns to find his wife has taken their boat and sailed away. He has a choice, leave to find her or stay behind. He chooses to take a chance and leave on what he thinks will be a quick journey to find her and return home. But alas, this is not to be, instead he finds his wife has gone on further adventures and he must continue on if he wishes to find her. This will lead to a series of his own adventures involving pretending to be a famous war hero, commandeering a boat and crew of his own, going farther that he has ever been before, becoming storm tossed due to the disappearance of the moon’s light, being swallowed by a giant fish, finding the City of Light and meeting a variety of people he has never met before. These adventures will lead to the story of how the moon came to wax and wane.
All of this is told on stage by a veteran group of actors under the direction of Stuart Carden and the Pigpen Theatre Company ensemble. This is Mr. Carden’s debut at The Old Globe. He has numerous plays to his directorial credit and is an alumnus of Carneige Mellon University. Along with this the cleverly staged shadow puppets and puppets designed by Lydia Fine, who has been with Pigpen Theatre since its inception and Lighting Designs of Bart Cortright, also a veteran of Pigpen Theatre productions, help the story unfold and flow on stage, at times in a most amusing way. Mikhail Fiksel provided sound throughout the production as we could hear the moon’s light dripping away, the storm tossed ship floundering in the ocean and much more. Libby Unsworth is the Production Stage Manager.
The veteran troupe of actors from Pigpen Theatre Company moved effortlessly on stage clearly showing a group that enjoys what they are doing. Their musical talents were shown prior to the beginning of the play in a rousing number and would continue in other numbers in the play, such as “I Crash”. The Pigpen Company with be performing at the House of Blues for several days in June. Members of the company serve many duties on the set, not only acting in a variety of roles, but also are required to serve as stage hands for the shadow puppets and the sheets, moving props around as needed, handling other puppets, like the dog the Old Man comes across in this travels. One of the favorite audience moments is when the scene on stage requires a ship and several of the cast members grab hands, form the front of a ship and yell out “Ship”, to let the audience know what they are doing.
The talented ensemble consisted of Ryan Melia as The Old Man, Alex Falberg as The Old Woman and others, Ben Ferguson as Callahan and others, Curtis Gillen as Llewelyn and others, Matt Nuernberger as Matheson and others, Arya Shahi as Cookie and others and Dan Weschler as Mabelu and others.
“The Old Man and The Old Moon” is more than just a fairy tale. There is a lesson of undying love, longing, decision making and its consequences, respecting others desires and wishes. There is a reference in the play to “there are worse things than forgetting”, those things include losing the memory of those around you, your responsibilities and the love you have for those closest to you. Yes, this play is more than a simple fairy tale, but it is such a fun way to experience this fairy tale.
“The Old Man and The Old Moon” will be on stage at the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage at the Old Globe Theatre, Conrad Prebys Theatre Center, until June 18th. Tickets are available at www.The OldGlobe.org or call 619-234-5623. Ticket prices start at $29.00. Next up for The Old Globe will the 2017 Summer Season with “King Richard II” beginning June 11 followed by “Guys and Dolls” beginning on July 2nd.