“The Old Man and The Old Moon” is an imaginative quest tale about, yes, an old man who has tasked himself with filling up the moon with liquid light when it begins to wane. When one night his wife tries to cash in on his promise to take her dancing and he curmudgeonly refuses, she takes off. Of course he follows, through adventures rife with storms, civil war, strange encounters in the belly of a whale, ghosts and memory, only to discover truths even larger than that which makes his wife happy.
Reminiscent of “Peter and The Starcatcher” for its silliness and nautical setting, with a smattering of “The Fantasticks'” whimsy and charm, and a hint of “Once” with actors creating all the folksy music on stage, this play as written is enjoyable and pleasant if not riveting or terribly relevant. But at Hope Summer Repertory Theatre, it’s full of masterful performances from a remarkable cast that comes to life with wonderful design.
Created recently by PigPen Theatre Co., “The Old Man and The Old Moon” feels almost unscripted, as if the ensemble is improvising the show, collaborating intensely to make characters and action and music and laughter on the spot.
Even if the story itself isn’t as moving as one may hope, the performances from this cast of seven, who together perform more like 25 roles, are terrific.
The story, of course, revolves around the titular Old Man, and Chip Duford is charming and funny in this role. In his 26th season at HSRT, he consistently delivers fantastic characters, and his plastic face and physical comedy (practically without him having to do a thing except don a hat or express surprise) serve this show especially well.
Christian Klepac is a commanding narrator; Taylyn Reine has a stunning voice and tugs at the heart strings as the Old Woman (as well as playing three other roles); and Sara Ornelas convincingly plays masculine roles (she also concurrently plays a beautiful Maria in HSRT’s “West Side Story”) with phenomenal energy and physicality, from comical fight scenes to shoulder stands on slanted platforms to stomping and dancing and enormous inspired gestures. She’s a marvel to watch, and Nicholas Parrott creates inspired choreography for her as well as the entire cast.
All the actors (including Mike Lee, Nicholas Parrott, and Meg Rodgers, all impressive and malleable in their various roles) take up a variety of instruments — banjos, guitars, drums, keyboard — and beautifully play and sing the score that emerges almost spontaneously as a big indie folk-rock sound (with a smattering of lovely ballads) reminiscent of bands like “The Head and The Heart,” under excellent musical direction from Alex Thompson.
Sarah Pearline’s set, with giant moving pieces made of wooden planks that connect in various ways to shift scenes from a dock to a balcony to a ship to the belly of a whale, is terrific. Eric Van Tassell’s lighting design adds to the magic, particularly with how he creates the waxing and waning moon. Other mystical touches created by their collaboration, including a symbolic Chinese kite fish, all add to the overall effect.
“The Old Man and The Old Moon” is playful and fun, executed well, and enjoyable. If it falls short of poignant, it’s no fault of this production, really. Some stories just don’t fully hit that mark but are worthwhile nevertheless for showcasing incredible talent.
The Old Man and the Old Moon
Hope Summer Repertory Theatre
July 6-Aug. 9