San Diego Theater Preview: THE OLD MAN AND THE OLD MOON (The Old Globe)

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by Frank Arthur on May 10, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


Having seen PigPen Theatre Co.’s The Old Man and the Old Moon in Chicago, I can guarantee that gem of a theater experience will gently pluck at your heartstrings – just as it did with a successful run Off-Broadway’s Gym at Judson. Opening May 13 and running through June 18, 2017 at San Diego’s The Old Globe, this ensemble play and enchanting fable – told through shadow puppetry, movement, music, and theatrical lighting – seems aesthetically filtered through Instagram. As a warm glow emanates from the stage, a simple story and homespun theatrical devices are transformed into something extraordinarily beautiful.

The original folk tale centers on the Old Man, whose job is to replenish the moon with liquid light every day. When his wife tires of their sedentary life, she sets out on a rowboat to chase a melody across the ocean – and the Old Man embarks on a journey to find her. While the moon rapidly loses light, the Old Man encounters a troupe of mischievous sailors, ghosts in the belly of a fish, and even a long lost dog (a puppet made out of mops and a milk jug) on an episodic adventure around the world.

The young company’s collaborative camaraderie shows in every aspect of the production. Rather than assign hierarchical roles (director, playwright, composer, etc.), the members comfortably swap characters and instruments, hang curtains and shine lights, in refreshing creative synergy with one another.

In collaboration with set/costume/puppet designer Lydia Fine and lighting/projection designer Bart Cortright, PigPen conjures up theatrical magic from nothing more than paper, sheets, and a bit of light: wondrous child’s play. Title cards fly onto a screen as in a motion picture’s opening credits; an intricate shadow village pops up behind a luminous sheet; a paper puppet of the Old Man climbs a towering ladder with his arm extending to reach each tiny rung. Meanwhile, rich harmonies roll across PigPen’s Mumford & Sons-style folk music, enhancing these memorable theatrical moments.

The joyous experimentation and inventive aesthetic manages to be simultaneously ancient and hip(ster), transforming theatrical tradition for a new generation.

photos by Jenny Sullivan

The Old Man and the Old Moon
PigPen Theatre Co.
Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage
The Old Globe
1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park
opens May 13; ends on June 18, 2017
for tickets, call 619.234-5623 or visit The Old Globe

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