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A Chorus of Light and Sound

I have seen a bunch of theater this year, both Broadway and Off, thanks completely to Ian and his magical theater subscription. While a lot of the work I’ve seen was great (and some not so great), I’ve never been keen on writing about them, as I am not a “theater person” in the least. As in, I don’t usually know what I would say.

the Old Man and the Old Moon Off-Broadway

This time, I feel differently. This time, we saw The Old Man and The Old Moon, by Pigpen Theatre group.

Like the Siren of a good yarn, this whimsical modern fable begins with a yearning induced by a song carried on the wind.

The Old Man in question has one job: to fill up the Moon as its light empties out into a bucket. His wife, who hears a song on a breeze, is stirred to leave their long-filled post, to follow this lyrical thread of memory. The Old Woman leaves her husband, who is unwilling to leave his post, to seek its source. Upon waking, the Distraught Man goes after her.

What follows is an old fashioned adventure. Dripping with wonder in the form of light, shadow puppets and folk melodies, The Old Man and The Moon is wide-eyed but the idealism isn’t unearned. My favorite moment was a simple yet incredible feat of theater magic, when a silhouette of the Old Man becomes the canvas for a flashback sequence crafted from shadows and articulate puppets while the cast drew out music from the dark.

The ensemble cast of seven Carnegie-Mellon grads–who developed the story while still in school–deliver a tale that delves into the ideas of devotion, adventure, memory and that most theatrical of emotions: love. They are a talented chorus of storytellers, each with a great voice and each picking up different instruments, seven Orpheus’ singing ahead of their Eurydice, The Story. Think a banjo and a fiddle, drums and guitars. It’s as if Mumford and Sons— completely donned in chambray and chinos, striped henleys and vests–decided to become thespians on the Off-Broadway stage. In addition to a great cast, the lighting design and the set was magnificent. The entire thing felt low-fi but at the same time, inspired the audience to use its imagination to the fullest. Above all else, it was masterfully childlike.

The magical stagecraft performed by this earnest cast transcends any inkling the audience may have of a “hipster” show. Like the titular Moon itself, this show drips liquid light.

[Photo from PigPen Theatre Co.’s Facebook]

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