Life shifts. We cycle through lovers, friends, jobs, cities, and whatever else is thrown in our path. The Old Man and The Old Moon, now at the Gym at Judson, is a playful and charming tale of a simple man who faces changes in his life. He abandons his only job—which involves climbing a ladder to “fill the moon” with a bucket of light every night—in order to sail westward across the sea, chasing his lover, who’s left him in pursuit of a more adventurous life. Using a clever combination of stringed instruments, puppetry, and shadow and light, Pigpen Theatre Company creates an utterly enjoyable and whimsical fable that illustrates how to understand a world that’s continually proving unpredictable.
Pigpen Theatre Company is a longtime collaboration among seven Carnegie Mellon graduates, and much of The Old Man‘s success is based on the obvious chemistry between these seven guys. On a stage smartly devised by designer and costumer Lydia Fine, they explode with energy, dressed like Midwest farmers in rolled-up pants and suspenders, leaping around from scene to scene. While we watch the Old Man search for his Old Woman everywhere from magic islands to a giant fish’s stomach, the ensemble transforms around him, adopting various characters from sailors to ghosts, sometimes locking arms and physically acting like a ship. Particularly stunning is Ryan Melia, who plays the Old Man. Despite only graduating from college in 2011, he carries himself wearily, appearing to have years upon years of struggle and pressure on his shoulders.
A fantastical show that could easily come across contrived or overly precious, The Old Man succeeds at keeping itself grounded. The cast is shamelessly self-aware, embracing the story-telling style of the play in order to not take itself too seriously. They goof off, argue, tell jokes, sing, and dance, all the while still genuinely acting sweet and innocent, like a bunch of wide-eyed boys who just want to experience everything the world has to offer.