It’s easy to get swept up in the bright lights of Broadway. The Hollywood headliners, the high-tech lights and elaborate sets, the glamorous costumes, and the time-old shows. So it’s not always easy for the new guy on the block to stick out of the crowd. But quite often, it is those hidden gems that can outshine even the best designed lights.
PigPen Theatre Co. brings back the simplicity of storytelling in The Old Man and The Old Moon, at the New Victory Theater. The story is reminiscent of one that might be told as a bedtime tale: An old man has spent his life caring for the moon and filling it with liquid light. But when his wife suddenly leaves, he sets off on a whirlwind of an adventure to find her. His captivating journey is accompanied by catchy folk music, shadow puppets, and a very creative use of the stage and props.
The play begins with the seven-member troupe and their folk instruments, casually playing (very similar to the start of the Broadway show, Once) to then form a spirited opening number. They are hardly your average Mumford and Sons wannabes, though. With a beautiful blend of voices creating perfectly locked harmonies, their sound is genuine and warm, inviting you to sit back, relax, and get ready for a story.
The opening narration is done by Matt Nuernberger, who immediately commands attention of the stage and draws forth even the youngest of audience members. After a brief introduction of the characters, the shadows come into play, with a charming opening credit jumping from bed sheet to bed sheet, backed by another toe-taping folk tune. The adventure of the Old Man does not take long to begin, and each turn of his journey has another twist and another clue to where his beloved wife has run off to.
When seeing a show for young audiences, it is always a concern that things will be too over the top, too “Mickey Mousey” for adult enjoyment. But that was not the case here. The gifted actors are able to have freedom and fun, while still holding a great deal of sensitivity to certain moments. Their comedic timing keeps the audience anticipating what punch line will be delivered next. But even more exciting was the creative use of the stage, which was really quite a simple set. Wooden planks comprised the stage, with ropes, bottles, and other trinkets scattered around. A row of glass bottles became the perfect moment for a percussion duo. Planks of wood became doors. Long panels of fabric became boats, the sea, a storm. Nothing was expected. Except maybe the unexpected.
The Old Man, played by Ryan Melia, was wonderfully portrayed. Melia creates a depth to the character that makes you almost feel like you’re on the journey with him. When he’s funny, he’s funny, but he also handles the moments of fear, uncertainty, and anger with a tender hand. As the Old Man slowly remembers a forgotten promise that he had made his wife, he transforms and a gentle side of him appears.
Watching The Old Man and The Old Moon is like visiting the best times of your childhood; the stories, the adventures, all wrapped in a whimsical tune. The energy of PigPen extends to the furthest reaches of the theater, and makes you wish the 90-minute show could last just another five minutes mom, please?! The combination of folk music, the inventive use of the stage and props, and the charismatic chemistry of the men on stage is the perfect recipe for success. The simplicity of storytelling is something that has long been overshadowed by forced theatrics, but PigPen Theater brings back the joy of a simple story and the pleasure of what the imagination can uncover. If there is one show not to miss this fall, The Old Man and The Old Moon is it.
- What: The Old Man and The Old Moon
- Who: PigPen Theater CO.
- Where: The New Victory Theater – 209 West 42nd Street
- When: Now until October 13
- Tickets: Here