To many, “Musical Theater” means “Broadway-type Musicals” with big dance numbers, full orchestrations, zany characters and music to hum on the way home. In fact, even the more dramatic musicals carry that idea with it. I tell you this, because Writers Theatre in Glencoe has found a company that brings a new flavor to the “Musical Theater”, PigPen Theatre Company. PigPen began their unique brand of theater. music and film when they were college students back in 2007. They were the company that brought “The Old Man and The Moon” to Writers and opened up our eyes to this unique style of story-telling ,one that is intense and mesmerizing!
The new show is “The Hunter and The Bear”, now in its World Premiere. The play is written by the gentlemen who make up the cast, so it is a true ensemble piece. The production is directed by Stuart Carden, who did a powerful job in the same role for “The Old Man and The Moon”. This tale, is one about an imaginative young boy and his father, the Hunter, Tobias (played to perfection by Ben Ferguson). The boy, Elliot, is in fact a puppet, but is manipulated and voiced by Ryan Melia, who is superb and makes the actor and the puppet blend as one. Toby is to protect a small town from danger (Bears, of course are dangerous), but when his son disappears in the woods, all of the men join in the search for the young lad. This IS a “folk tale” from start to finish!
As they search the area, high and low, many dark secrets that are contained in the woods become secreted. We hear of ghost stories (all campers enjoy one, don’t they), but perhaps they are not just stories. I will not spoil the creative illusions that these gentlemen bring to the stage by telling you any more, except to say that the staging, story-telling, shadow puppetry and award-winning folk music will send chills up and down your spine, captivating you for 100 minutes of pure “magic”. The ensemble is composed of Alex Falberg, Curtis Gillen, Matt Nuernberger, Arya Shahi and Dan Weschler in addition to Messrs Ferguson and Melia. These are actors of the highest level, wonderful singers and solid musicians. Truly “triple- threat”.
The technical aspects make a picture that truly works in telling this tale. Collette Pollard’s set is multi-level with ramps, ladders and logs, allowing us to feel as if we are in a secluded area. The lighting (Bart Cortright) is amazing, where even a campfire comes from ones hands to appear real (without seeing a single flame) and the sound (Mikhail Fiksel) allows us to hear every word, sound effect and musical note during this production. The projections are simple so that the puppetry (Lydia Fine) can take on its role in the story-telling and the props (Scott Dickens) are amazing!
While this show may not be for everyone ( I suggest that kids be 14 and over), it is a special event for a theater-lover to be witness to. There are some productions that are, what I term, “theatrical experiences”, and this is ONE OF THOSE!
Speaking for myself, I loved the first production they did, “The Old Man and The Moon” and prior to viewing tonight’s production felt they could not even come close to captivating me again. I was wrong. This one was even better!
“The Hunter and The Bear” will continue at Writers Theatre at 325 Tudor Court in Glencoe thru January 22nd with performances as follows:
Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. on 12/21 and 1/18
Saturdays 3 p.m. (except 12/24 and 12/31) and 7:30 p.m. (except 12/24 and 12/31)
Sundays 2 p.m. (EXCEPT CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR DAY) and 6 p.m. (except 12/24, 1/1 and 1/22)
Tickets range from $35- $80 and can be purchased at the box office, 325 Tudor Court, by calling 847-242-6000, or online at www.writerstheatre.org
You can also find info on Metra as well as audience enrichment performance dates on the website. There is plenty of free parking in the area.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Hunter and The Bear”