When I was scanning the list of Fringe shows that I intended to review this year my heart gave a little leap when I saw that PigPen would be returning again this year with The Mountain Song. True, I’m probably not supposed to have a favorite before I even see the show, but after being completely and utterly entranced by last year’s Fringe offering The Nightmare Story I eagerly awaited their next play the way a doting mom awaits a favorite son’s visit home from college.
“What’s this play about?” I heard someone ask, as they navigated the Fringe Fairway of 4th Street and saw our long line. “It’s about a carpenter who’s trying to get to his daughter’s wedding …” someone answered. Clearly this person’s never seen a PigPen production before. For, while this may be what the story is “about” … this was not what we were all waiting to see. This simple synopsis does little to account for the fact that half of PigPen’s remaining shows are now already sold out.
A few moments later as we filed into the theatre it became clear what we were there for: the exuberance, enthusiasm and unbridled talent of the troupe that calls themselves PigPen made up of Arya Shahi, Ben Ferguson, Dan Weschler, Ryan Melia, Curtis Gillen, Alex Falberg and Matt Nuernberger. They commanded the stage as they played music they’ve become popular for, foot-stomping, head-bopping, hand-clapping folk music played on banjo, fiddle, tambourine, drum, guitar, and accordion. Later they will add in an electric guitar.
As the story settles in they captivate and charm the audience with a unique blend of shadow puppets, song, inventive props, and good old fashioned imagination. While much of their appeal rests with their easy humor and their wry delivery when the story calls for deep sentiment these guys can conjure up a feeling of heartbreak or poignancy as easily as they evoke airplanes, serve up giants, or give a voice to a mountain. So yes, we watch as the carpenter goes in search of his daughter in order to attend her wedding. But that’s not what we’re held by. It is the way each moment of their story carries a hidden treasure, a drop of exhilaration, a perfect twinkle of resourcefulness and realization. “That’s a good story,” they conclude, “sad but pretty … they way a story ought to be“.
As always the only disappointment with PigPen is when the play is over; it’s hard to watch them leave the stage – the same way it is hard for a child to watch that favorite relative go home at the end of a giddy day of make-believe. The good news is PigPen is relocating to New York City so those who can’t get enough of them will now be able to see them a lot more. And as long as they’ll be putting on shows, I’ll be in the audience, watching: amazed and dazzled.
PigPen Presents: The Mountain Song
PigPen Theatre Co.
Writer: Alex Falberg, Arya Shahi, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen, Dan Weschler, Matt Nuernberger, Ryan Melia