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PigPen Presents: The Nightmare Story (Fringe Festival 2010)

by Karen Tortora-Lee on August 18, 2010

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Nightmare Stories

If you’re looking for a simple little story, told in a simple little way, but one which deceptively leaves you with the feeling that you’ve just seen a full scale production, The Nightmare Story is the show for you.

Taking a cue from old folk tales, the men of PigPen begin to weave a tale that begins in the dark and is brought out from the shadows.

The troupe opens with a musical show (Something drummed up to keep the audience happy while it files into seats and waits for the show to start?  Meant to serve as a back story?  Just for fun?) Regardless of the  motive the result is the same – driving Ukrainian Folk Music consisting of tambourine, banjo, accordion, violin, whistling, and a makeshift drum of sorts (reminiscent of the empty plastic pickle barrels).  The music is infectious, toe tapping, head bobbing music, and you can’t help but enjoy yourself.

Before you even have time to get the last tune out of your head the talented troupe of travelers (comprised of Alex Falberg, Arya Shahi, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen and Ryan Melia) transform themselves into Storytellers, playing hot potato with the words but keeping the line of the story unbroken and lively.  After a brief  debate about where to start the story (With the little boy?  Or with the little boy’s mother?) they carry you away to a land where too many nightmares can cause a person to die,  and exposure to someone with too many nightmares can force you to break away from your safe little world in order to go and find a cure.

With well placed songs that bring an unexpected tear to your eye, or (at the very least) a poignant lump in your throat, it’s surprising what these young men teach through their story – theirs is a lesson of losing, of growing, of journeying far in order to come home victorious; it’s the story of becoming a man and discovering the world . . . discovering that it’s terrifying  . . . yet beautiful  . . . and can blow away like a scrap of torn paper at the whim of a stranger.

Like any good bedtime story, The Nightmare Story relies heavily on darkness, shadows, lone beams of light, and sweet tones.  Not too scary, but not too sedate it manages to pack a lot of story in its brief 45 minutes.

These young men are triple threats – actors, musicians and singers – and all of their talents bob and weave amid each other flawlessly.  Whether it is the way they tell their story by finishing each others sentences, or the way their voices harmonize till they find that golden spot, or the way their instruments can fill up the room and drive emotion to the surface.  These men have perfected the art of the ensemble.

It is astonishing what this troop  can do with flashlights, bits of string, screens, rear projections, shadows and simple props.  The audience’s imagination becomes another player in this story, and moves and dances amid the actors on stage.  Nothing was more magical than seeing a theatre full of adults leaning forward expectantly in order to watch one of the characters – in order to climb a mountain – simply do what parents have done for their children for years  . . .turn their fingers into a pair of legs and “walk” across things that now have become huge.  So simple – so effective – so Fringe.

So?  What are you sitting there for?  Go!


PigPen Presents: The Nightmare Story

PigPen Theatre Co.
Writer: Alex Falberg, Arya Shahi, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen, Daniel Weschler, Matt Nuernberger, Ryan Melia


VENUE #6: The Club @ LA MAMA

Click on the date to purchase tickets:
Wed 18 @ 9 Fri 20 @ 4:45 Sat 21 @ 7

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