Encore Michigan

‘Old Man and Old Moon’ rising at Hope Rep

ReviewYouth/Family July 09, 2019 Sue Merrell

HOLLAND, Mich.–You don’t need to bring a child as an excuse to enjoy  The Old Man and The Old Moon, a new  family show at Hope Summer Repertory Theatre.  But judging from the dozens of kids who attended the opening performance Saturday afternoon, youngsters will find it entertaining too.

Created by PigPen Theatre Co.,  this off-Broadway show tells an ageless tale of how the moon came to be and why it waxes and wanes.  Of course the legend presented here is about as silly l as myths of green cheese, but the script has enough action and nonsense to keep the little ones entertained and enough sentiment and theatricality to satisfy grown-up tastes.

In the hands of director Lenny Banovez and the talented Hope cast, this production has many moments that are absolutely priceless. For instance, the “volley” of cannonballs in a battle scene is slapstick hilarious followed by a well-choreographed sword fight. And when our adventurers discover the city of lights, the set transformation is magical.

The seven cast members not only act about two-dozen roles, they also sing and play a variety of instruments and move the set pieces to create boats and docks and whatever else the fast-paced tale requires. They even throw in a few acrobatics.

The Irish accents of the characters, as well as the heavy drumbeat in the folk music, create an Old World feel in some nebulous time and place of long ago. The tunes are snappy with the characters strumming guitars and banjoes, taking turns at the drum or playing keyboard.

Hope Theatre favorite son Chip Duford portrays the title role Old Man, often hauling an accordion that almost seems to play by itself effortlessly, expanding and contracting with his character’s movement. The Old Man has the important task of tending to the Moon and filling it with light. But his wife decides to head west on an adventure. Distraught, the Old Man tries to find her and gets caught up in an adventure of his own while the moon grows dark in his absence.

A host of characters, from wife to ship’s captain, fish monger to sailor to cook, are portrayed by Christian Klepac, Mike Lee, Sara Ornelas, Nicholas Parrott, Taylyn Reine and Meg Rodgers. As mentioned earlier, this talented group have gone way beyond the triple threat of singing, dancing and acting.

Sarah Pearline’s dockside set creates a multilevel backdrop for the action which easily adapts to become the digestive track of a huge fish that swallows the Old Man.  A piece of dock also becomes a boat big enough to accommodate the entire cast and mobile enough to simulate battle and sinking, thanks to lighting effects designed by Eric VanTassell.  The set also includes some fun puppetry from little fishies to a giant green monster fish to sharks that infest the waters and a loveable moppy dog.

As delightful as this show is, it feels a tad too long. It is presented without intermission and runs an hour and 45 minutes. Anything beyond 90 minutes starts getting into the bladder danger zone especially for squirmy children. And the story is getting thin by that point. After chasing all these adventures the whole crux of the story … how the moon came to be and why it waxes and wanes…is squeezed into about five minutes.

But the lesson of “The Old Man and the Old Moon” comes through loud and clear: No matter how important you think your job is, make time for the people you love and enjoy the journey.

Week of 9/25/2023

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