The Old Man and the Old Moon


writers theatre
The Old Man and The Old Moon

By Pigpen Theatre Co.

Directed by Stuart Carden & Pigpen Theatre Co.

At Writers Theatre, Glencoe

Storytelling reaches new heights with expert use of indie-folk music,  shadow puppetry and charming characters

College professors need to be aware of what they say to their students as when Stuart Carden challenged seven freshman students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to unleash their creative bounds. Alex Falberg, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen, Ryan Melia, Matt Nuernberger, Arya Shahi, and Dan Weschler instantly began creating  dramatic shows with no limits. They blend resonant storytelling with spirited original indie-folk music (all play at least one instrument) with inventive use of shadow puppetry as well as using ordinary objects as puppets. These guy almost redefine ensemble creativity as all seven are equally involved in the writing and staging of all their works.  While still in college, these seven formed Pigpen Theatre Co. that did a variety of creative endeavors including live shows, music concerts and recordings, film projects, even a children’s book. All their projects are devised collectively as no individual receives writing, composing or directing credits. They start with what story they want to tell, then they figure out how to best tell that story. the results can be magical.

Ryan Melia, Curtis Gillen, Ben Ferguson, Matt Nuernberger, Dan Weschler

The seven reunited with Stuart Carden at Writers Theatre after a successful 2012 run of The Old Man and the Old Moon in New York. They have revised the work for the Midwest premiere at Writers Theatre. The result is a magnificent wholly imaginative work.  Pigpen Theatre Co. reminds me of the work of Redmoon Theater, Blair Thomas & Company and House Theatre but Pigpen is more sophisticated musically.

Matt Nuernberger, Dan Weschler, Ryan Melia, Curtis Gillen

The show opens musically with the jug band playing a Celtic -styled folk tune. The story is told with fine Irish brogue as we meet the Old Man (Ryan Melia) and his wife Old Woman (Alex Falberg). The Old Man’s job is to collect spilled light to refill the leaking moon. When his wife unexpectedly leave home in pursuit of much-needed adventure, Old Man leaves his job to follow her.  His journey takes him to sea with a group of dedicated sailors.  His search throws the world into chaos as the moon disappears. The Old Man not only searches for his lost love but ultimately for his fading memory and himself.

(Clockwise from Top Left) Curtis Gillen, Arya Shahi, Ben Ferguson, Ryan Melia, Alex Falberg, Matt Nuernberger, Dan Weschler

This epic fable is imaginative storytelling at its best. Pigpen Theatre Co. has created a new mythology filled with lively music and puppetry featuring a fabled  look at the moon as a leaking entity. Adventures and the quest for a lost city at the earth’s end play a role in this enchanting fable. The motifs stimulate audience’s imagination as the seven players engage us with charm, craft and deeply felt passion. This is storytelling theatre at its best. Ryan Melia leads a game troupe of storytellers

(Clockwise from Top Left) Ryan Melia, Ben Ferguson, Alex Falberg, Matt Nuernberger

All the elements work together to stimulate the senses; live music underscores the action, innovative use of shadow puppets to tell the story as well as empathetic acting by the seven man ensemble. Visually and audibly stunning, The Old Man and the Old Moon  is an adventure well worth taking. The intimate staging at Writers Theatre’s thrust stage gets the audience as a will participant in the journey.  The narrative is complete and the journey is exciting and surprisingly  unique yet it somehow seems familiar. But here, imagination rules as the charming Pigpen boys stimulate us into their narrative and we enjoy every moment of the 100 minute saga. This show exudes the passion and manic energy of Pigpen boys. That translates into a fun theatrical experience. The Old Man and the Old Moon is one of the finest shows to arrive in the Chicagoloand area in many a year! Take youngsters to Glencoe to see what unleashing creativity in storytelling is all about. They’ll be impressed.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: September 12, 2013

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout The Old Man and the Old Moon page at

At Writers Theatre, 376 park Avenue, Glencoe, IL, call 847-242-6000,,  tickets $35 – $70, Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 7:30 pm, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6 pm. with select Wednesday matinees at 2 pm, running time is 1oo minutes without intermission, through November 10, 2013

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