Theater Review: MAN AND MOON (Moxie Theatre)

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by Milo Shapiro on November 10, 2023

in Theater-San Diego


In much of our lives, we get to choose the people we surround ourselves with. Shy of that, we’re at least usually around those with whom we share some common interest, such as taste in movies or having kids on the same soccer team. And then there are those locations where we are thrown together with others arbitrarily, like plane seats or the DMV. In the case of Man and Moon at Moxie Theatre, it’s a hospital waiting room, in which random folks are at their most vulnerable, which is why it’s a perfect setting for playwright Siena Marilyn Ledger.

Luna (played by the mononymous Tirzah) is a precocious 12-year-old who has practically grown up in the waiting rooms of cancer treatment centers while her single Mom gets treated in an unseen medical room. Her mother’s doctoral program in science has led to Luna having a near obsession with all things beyond our orbit. Her knowledge of quasars, planet details, and space theory would rival many at NASA. Her coping mechanisms are amazing; what she lacks are social skills, as all attention has been focused on caring for Mom.

Enter Aaron (MG Green), formerly Erin, a trans man who has developed breast cancer after transitioning. With the irony not lost on Aaron, he is in the middle of treatment and, not surprisingly, spends a lot of time waiting for his name to be called to receive the weekly treatment that both gives him hope and tortures him. Estranged from his family and not well-accepted by society, he takes what comfort he can in creating solitude, particularly through earbuds, to avoid others. Luna, determined to connect, ignores his defensiveness, pushing him to communicate. Aaron’s response is purely begrudging at first, but he develops curiosity and, eventually, affection for the odd child who is usually there when he arrives.

The two-hander, by necessity, starts a little slow and heavy-handed, as the two strong characters need to be established, but in short order we’re pulled in and the 90-minute one-act captures us. Neither character is fully wooed, each bringing out both the best and the worst in the other. In one moment, for example, Luna has been pretty much left to figure out puberty by herself, leaving her to call upon, for guidance, someone who has worked hard to put his feminine side behind him.

Director Desireé Clarke Miller, who so deftly led Moxie’s Mother of the Maid and The Chronicles of Kalki, allows silence to ring powerfully at times. She paces the actors’ moments with great tenderness to great effect, using proximity and distance across the large waiting room to accentuate the mood of the characters and the tension between them.

As for the actors, Tirzah (who is a young-looking 17) clearly delights in throwing herself into nailing the energy that parents and teachers will recognize as 12-going-on-40 — yet still so very 12. It’s a role that suits her; she alternately exudes an effervescent glow that lights up the room and then robs it of any joy — as only a moody teenager can do. Conversely, Green’s more even-keeled performance acts as a foil to Tirzah’s robustness, giving the show consistency and some very touching moments.

So many productions are worthy for their flash, cleverness, and design work and, yes, this can be the fun of theater. But in the end, theater should be about good storytelling. Moxie, through Ledger, got it right with this one.

photos by Daren Scott

Man and Moon
Moxie Theatre

6663 El Cajon Blvd. Suite N – San Diego CA 92115
Thurs at 7:30; Fri & Sat at 8; Sun at 2
ends on December 3, 2023
for tickets, call 858.598.7620 or visit Moxie Theatre

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