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Dobama Theatre’s ‘The Old Man and the Moon’ stretches a yarn into a yawn

In a word...silly...bordering on ridiculous. This is what comes to mind after viewing the opening night of Dobama Theatre’s production of The Old Man and the Moon. The work is credited as a group project of PigPen Theatre Co. out of New York City. It is reminiscent of the bygone madcap avant garde theater days of the 70s when groups of long hairs would gather, become herbally enhanced and spew out a script.

The main problem with this show is that it is not quite sure what it wants to be when it grows up. At first glance it seems to be orientated for children but the late start time of 8:00 p.m. (on top of that opening night began fifteen minutes late) and the hour and forty minutes run time with fifteen minute intermission goes far past most children’s attention span. Children require a short show with no intermission. It also tries very hard to be a dramedy or dramatic comedy but there was very little discernible laughter issuing forth from the Friday night audience including the few squirming children in attendence.

On the plus side there is a lot of energy onstage and although not billed as a musical there is lots of music with guitars, violins, percussion, piano, banjo and accordion with each cast member playing an instrument. There is also no sound cues or prerecorded noises as the cast deftly handles those assignments as well. There is also an abundant use of flashlights as well as shadow puppets that are again geared more towards children than adults.

The Old Man, Gabe Reed lives with his wife, The Old Woman (Emmy Brett) in a small cottage on the hill. Every night the Old Man would leave his home by the cliff side and climb a ladder into the sky to refill the moon with liquid light for the moon had a small leak that would fall about a hundred miles into a wee bucket at the side of a cliff. It was this bucket that the old man would carefully use to refill the moon to the brim.

It is a very tranquil and little changing life for the couple. One day, the wife proposed

they take a walk to the town in order to attend a dance but The Old Man is too tired from his trip to the moon and says no.

The next day the wife takes their small boat and sets out on an adventure in search of the city of light that is somewhere to the west. Broken hearted, The Old Man goes to the dock area and through a case of mistaken identity manages to join a ship’s crew thus his adventures begin.

When originally performed by Pigpen Theatre Co. the show ran 80 or 90 minutes long with no intermission. Somehow the Dobama Theatre version got stretched to 100 minutes with a fifteen minute intermission. This is a show in need of some judicial editing including getting the people off the boat sooner (they are there for a very long time).

The cast is full of energy, they are highly skilled as musicians and it is a cute story idea although confusing in the end. The cast consists of Gabe Reed as The Old Man, Kieran Minor as Llewelyn, Treva Offutt as Mabelu, Tim Keo as Cookie/Bartley, Jourdan Lewanda as Mathenson, Emmy Brett as The Old Woman/Captain/Solomon, Josh Innerst as Callahan/Perry and Amy Bransky as Mickey/Swing. The show is directed by Melissa T. Crum and Nathan Motta.

With a rambling story line and bit confusing conclusion this extended version of the original production could use a bit of red penciling to trim off some of the fat. An earlier start time would also draw in more parents with children.

The Old Man and the Moon runs through January 5, 2020 at Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio. For tickets and information visit or call (216) 932-3396.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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