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A CurtainUp Review
Moon Man Walk
On the long platform stage in the Prince's Black Box theater, incidents from the past play out and two young people meet in the present. Concurrently an astronaut walks alone on the moon in beautifully lighted scenes, dim but shiny, some with projections, all lyrical and kind of spooky.
Moon Man Walk is the story of a boy named Monarch whose mother protects him from too much reality, telling him bedtime tales that turn his absent father into a heroic lost astronaut. He imagines his father, a spaceman trapped on the moon, isolated, and thinking about his son back on earth. Carlo Campbell mesmerizes as the astronaut.
Jaylene Clark Ownes plays the mother, Esther, as a strong and capable woman doing the best she can. Firmly believing she's helping her son, she insists that he believe her: "He the one that drive the space ship like how Zebulon drives the 14 bus." She replies to Monarch's "Really?" with "Would I lie to you?"
Even when Monarch has grown up and moved away from home, he doesn't wander far psychologically from his mother's apron strings, and he doesn't seem to realize that his boyhood was pretty rough. Lindsay Smiling, a rock solid actor, does right by the uptight and cautious Monarch, who grew up to become an introspective librarian.
Although there are touchstone moments where he's figuring things out about the moon and space travel, we're not sure how long this bright man-child actually believes his mother's tale. When the play glides by without the "aha!" moment Monarch must have had when truth crashed his fairytale and he chose to stay with it, it's a missed opportunity for a jagged scene.
Petrushka, a perky, pretty woman with an interest in Monarch, doesn't let up. Relentlessly she comes on to him, like a fly buzzing around his head or a lightning bug sending signals. It's surprising that this shy and restrained man, instead of being annoyed, falls for her. Aime Donna Kelly throws herself into her role, for her character needs Monarch to move on with his life.
I appreciate the sound design's striking moments and bits of popular music integral to the characters' lives. But what impresses me most about it is how sounds and music stay subtle, stealthily matching and enhancing the action and shifting moods.
Under Edward Sobel's direction the action really moves along, sometimes simplified into shorthand, as Ijames's tender and moving play softly addresses love and loss, disconnection and connection. Moon Man Walk crests, and then slips away in a kind of casual, throw away ending.
Note: This new play is the first offering of Orbiter 3, a producing playwrights collective. Members of Orbiter 3 include Maura Krause (Artistic Director), Emily Acker, Emma Goidel, James Ijames, Mary Tuomanen, and Douglas Williams.