By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
After the Old Woman (Alex Falberg) takes off in the middle of the night, an Old Man (Ryan Melia) sets off on a perilous mission to find his wife in Pigpen Theatre Company’s lively, lyrical lullaby, “The Old Man and the Old Moon.”
In an ode to the moon, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote, “Art thou pale for weariness, of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth? Wandering companionless among the stars that have a different birth, and ever changing a joyless eye that finds no object worth its constancy.”
It turns out the moon isn’t weary, but its operator is. The Old Man’s job is to fill Earth’s satellite with its silvery glow nightly, but he is weary of climbing to heaven and filling up the moon.
His wife, however, is driven by wanderlust. She wants to see the world, but the Old Man can’t get too far from his post or the moon will empty of its liquid light. One night, she takes off without him. Suddenly, he realizes she is more important to him than his lunar assignment, and he sets out to retrieve her.
The play hits all the high notes from Joseph Campbell’s Heroes’ Journey as the Old Man embarks on his epic quest. He encounters many people to assist him with his mission, but his path is fraught with danger.
The Old Man assumes the identity of an illustrious naval captain and commandeers a military vessel to search for his beloved. He encounters the crew, including Llewelyn (Curtis Gillen), Callahan (Ben Ferguson), Matheson (Matt Nuernberger) and more. He also travels by foot and, at one point, via dirigible.
He, literally and figuratively, sails to the ends of the earth to reunite with his wife.
Pay attention. Every word spoken in the story is important. Seemingly throwaway bits and casual lines of dialogue return – like “Chinatown” for children.
The musical folktale is written by the production team at Pigpen Theatre Company, a cadre of former Carnegie Mellon University students returning to Pittsburgh to perform. The show contains song, feats of derring-do and shadow puppets.
It’s a kid’s show for the kid at heart. The folktale is bright and imaginative. It’s a sophisticated children’s show. While it can be enjoyed by younger audiences, Pigpen never panders to the lowest common denominator. It’s more of a mishmash of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” It is a quantum leap from “Disney on Ice” or “Sesame Street Live.”
Stuart Carden directs it with verve.
The actors bounce around the stage like pinballs ricocheting off bumpers in an aggressive arcade game. They also sing and play musical instruments. Its great fun from a magnificent cast.
Falberg, Ferguson and company do a splendid job of filling the show with their own brand of liquid light, wit and magic. You may never gaze upon our lunar companion in the same way again.
“The Old Man and the Old Moon” runs through December 3 at the City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203. For more information, click here.