Sometimes the truth lies between reality and fantasy, where a single mother feels that she has to shield the truth so that her son can a have a false narrative of respect for his father. Unfortunately, as good as the mother’s intentions may be when the untold truth becomes reality, it can feel as though you are living in another world–where the story of your life feels like a superficial tale that leaves you caught between the moon and the earth to figure it out.
“My mom told me I didn’t touch the ground until I was five,” says Monarch (Debo Balogun), the protagonist of playwright James Ijames’ “Moon Man Walk,” presented by the Definition Theatre Company at Victory Gardens Theatre. Upon hearing about the sudden death of his beloved mother, Monarch returns to his childhood home in Philadelphia to plan her funeral. In doing so, he deals with his childhood, none existent father, loss, love, and the excruciatingly painful task of finding himself.
The nucleus of this enchanting play is the moving between the present and the past with flashbacks amid an enduring relationships that Monarch shares with his mother Esther (Shadana Patterson), a woman he has been fond of since childhood. However, this relationship eventually leads him struggling to come to terms with his identity because it is difficult to see beyond the blurred lines she has created amongst reality and fantasy.
When Monarch is a little boy, he asks about his father, and his mother decides to fabricate a story to hide the truth that his father was imprisoned before he was born. She tells him that his father is an astronaut stuck on the moon and although Monarch knows his mother is not telling the truth, he is caught up in the fantasy of the fairytale.
There are invisible forces that help to navigate this journey through the mechanism of a modern family. Although the set of “Man Moon Walk” is deceptively simplistic with its round platform surrounded by big steps that spiral upwards, seemingly going up to space, and the lighting is characterized by blue hues, adding to Monarch’s altered sense of reality.
The performance peels back a lot of layers on the foundation and shaping of one man’s life with the complexities of growing up with a single mother and the stigma of an absent father and the physiological demands of adulthood.
Nevertheless, with all of the struggles throughout Monarch’s passage through life, we get to see him fall in love with an enigmatic and vibrant young woman by the name of Petrushka (Chanell Bell) who seemingly came into his life at the right time to help him deal with his pain. She challenges him to dig deeper into his past so that he can find the true meaning of who he is as a man.
Monarch is now rewriting his narrative to his life story with the help of Petrushka. Her very presence allows him to envision a happier way of living and after he finds a bundle of letters at his mother’s house, he is able to leave behind the sanctity of his unpredictable life and explore the many concerns he has regarding his parents, especially his father Kesi (Michael Anthony Rawlins).
Director Tyla Abercrumbie does a compelling job at taking us from Philadelphia to the moon and back with gravity forces that allow relationships to manifest themselves back in time. The cast provides a true life narrative of how difficult it can be when you start life already lost in the problematic past of others and the failure to overcome the obstacles they bring.
Let’s Play recommends that you come and take a trip to the moon!
Written by James Ijames
Directed by Tyla Abercrumbie
January 26 – February 25, 2018
The cast includes:
Debo Balogun (Monarch)
Chanelle Bell (Petrushka)
Shadana Patterson (Esther, Flight attendant, Nurse, Dry Cleaning Lady, Historical Novel Lady)
Michael Anthony Rawlins (Astronaut, Funeral Guy, Flower Guy, Kesi, Front Door Guy, Barista Guy, Mystery Novel Guy, Romance Novel Guy)