Review: The Man And The Moon

Mar. 9, 2019 | By Bruce R.Feldman

“The Old Man and The Old Moon,” The Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, Beverly Hills, Mar. 2-17, 2019

In Brief: Is an abundance of quirky charm and homespun humor enough to make a trip to the theater worthwhile? If your answer is yes – and especially if you have a few kids in tow – then you will take pleasure in the PigPen Theatre Co.’s "The Old Man and The Old Moon," an ensemble-forged comic fable with music presented by a troupe of seven uninhibited, versatile, appealing performers.

Sometimes you don’t want to think too much. You just want a night of pleasant, light-hearted diversion. That’s precisely what this PigPen Theatre Co. production, energetically directed by Stuart Carden, delivers.

The PigPen Theatrre Co. in "The Old Man and the Old Moon"

At an easy-to-digest 90 minutes, it’s a gentle tale wrapped up in a brightly colored package of spirited ditties, animated dancing, enchanting puppetry, and comic antics that run the gamut from affable to slapstick. As such, it’s hard to resist.

The story is an amiable, rambling affair, set, as the program notes, “a long time ago, on the land, and on the sea.” A narrator explains that the moon has a small leak, allowing some of its light to drip out. The Old Man (Ryan Melia) of the title has the job of collecting the drops of light in a bucket, then making the arduous climb to refill the moon each night.

It’s hard work. All he wants to do when he returns home is to have dinner and stay in. His wife (Alex Falberg, a man wearing a babushka) has other dreams and ambitions. These are not demanding at first. She’d be happy if her husband would take her dancing in town once in a while.

As her frustration mounts, she hops in a boat in the middle of the night to see what lies beyond her tiny world. The Old Man follows to get her back, embarking on his own wondrous journey of self-discovery, enlightenment, and comedic distraction. The adventures that follow are improbable, but amusing and good-natured. He impersonates a famous sailor to get a ship’s crew to help him find his wife, and at one point he ends up trapped in the belly of a giant fish.

With help from Matt Nuernberger and Curtis Gillen, The Old Man (Ryan Melia) journeys into the unknown

All of this is incidental to the point of the evening, which is to showcase the multiple talents, creativity and inventiveness of PigPen’s ensemble. The actors – all men – sing, dance, and strut about the stage enthusiastically. They mug and gush with little subtlety and much crowd pleasing comic flair. There’s a youthful improvisational quality to these performances that suits the gossamer material well.

Most of the cast plays one or more musical instruments – banjo, guitar, accordion, drums – accompanying the action with lively folk-infused harmonies.

A special note of appreciation goes to production designer Lydia Fine, whose impressive, funky set fills The Wallis stage, providing an expansive multi-level platform for the nimble cast’s antics. Her shadow puppets and hand puppets made from mops and other household items are captivating.

The Old Man and the Old Moon was presented in New York in 2014. It’s finally reaching Los Angeles. Bring the whole family and settle in for 90-minutes of entertainment that makes no intellectual demands but is undeniably enchanting.

“The Old Man and The Old Moon,” The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 746-4000, www.thewallis.org

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