Summer is ticking away in Philadelphia, which generally means trips to the shore, generous helpings of water ice, and relatively little theater, hence, my lack of blogging. But yesterday afternoon, Aurora and I caught the matinee of Moon Man Walk, the world premiere by James Ijames.
There are a couple of powerful reasons for all local playwrights to see this show. First, it’s the premiere production of Orbiter 3, the Legion-of-Doom of new plays that I’ve blogged about more than once. Secondly, James is a tremendous talent who has been gracing Philly stages as an actor for many years and is now garnering respect as a playwright. Like, a lot of respect. Like, he-must-be-stopped-before-he-conquers-the-world respect. Like that.
In the same year, James has managed to score this production, a reading at this year’s PlayPenn festival, and the Pew Fellowship, which is a hell of a trifecta, leading me to hereafter refer to summer 2015 as “The Summer of Ijames.” What makes it all the worse is that he’s a nice guy. I mean, it’s one thing to smack-talk Bruce Graham or Jacqui Goldfinger or David Strattan White, because we’re all awful people, but smack-talking James is like smack-talking a puppy. I much prefer to believe that, in his private moments, he eats live sea lions.
But to the point: Moon Man Walk is a well-written piece of drama with moments of raw emotion. It hit Aurora harder than me, but again, I’m an awful person. I had some quibbles with the plot: most notably, the ending, which was blocked like it was a surprise, was absolutely not a surprise at all. And, I thought it was a titch lazy to give an almost pathologically-introverted character a job as a librarian (it would be much more interesting to show us an introverted sportscaster, or a librarian who was captain of a rugby team). However, James has a profound grasp of human interactions. I was particularly taken with the flashback sequences between the mother and the child-version of our hero, where simple dialogue was interwoven with complicated themes. Sure, it veers into the flowery on occasion, and I was perfectly fine with that. It was a hero’s journey told with magical realism, not unlike The Odyssey, except with fewer cyclopes and more astronauts.