WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) -
Based on the award winning memoir of the same title by Ian Brown, Emil Sher’s brisk ninety minute play is harrowing, but also uplifting. Ian is played by Dan Storch, his wife Johanna is played by Liisa Repo-Martell and a third actor, Kelly Mcnamee plays their daughter Hayley as well as other characters. Ian and Johanna are writers. Ian is also a teacher. Their second child Walker is born with an extremely rare genetic birth syndrome called CFC syndrome. It’s so rare that only 300 known cases exist in the world. Walker’s disabilities and stunted development are extreme.
In a riveting opening monologue Ian explains the impossibly complicated and delicate process of simply feeding Walker. This is the only way Walker will fall asleep after waking up in the middle of the night. The details are startling, disturbing, terrifying and almost comical in their absurdity. It’s suffice to say that feeding Walker isn’t as simple as giving him a bottle.
The play mixes scientific facts, every day logistical struggles and lyricism. CFC syndrome is so horrific that lyricism and metaphor is necessary to help process the brutal reality of it all. Although there can never truly be understanding, the title refers to Ian looking for his son in the moon. Sometimes, when looking closely at the moon, you can see a face. This is where the expression of the man in the moon comes from. Ian just wants to find Walker, his son, whose condition makes him unknowable, unreachable, anywhere-even in the moon.
Director Chris Abraham’s has created both a spare and inventive production. Performed in the Firehouse theater at the Thousand Islands Playhouse, the black box environment is perfect for the play. Without a set, the play relies often on space, sound and projection. The sparseness of the arena often underscores the isolation the characters feel as they struggle through incredibly difficult circumstances. There is one particularly riveting sequence where Ian and Johanna are far apart, yet seem to be having an intimate important conversation. This spatial metaphor shows how adversity and trauma can separate spouses from each other.
The play’s narrative thrust isn’t always dramatic, in the sense of scenes and conflict between characters, sometimes it is just characters retelling events and sharing their feelings. However it all still works beautifully, and although the subject matter is often difficult to absorb, you will leave the play, uplifted from when you entered.