PigPen Theatre Co. – Mercury Lounge – February 26, 2013
“The ginger’s the one of many talents,” one starstruck girl explained to her group of friends. I’d been eavesdropping on them all night—well, forced to listen to their conversation as they freaked out and gushed over the seven boys in PigPen Theatre Co. as they performed their dreamy, folky songs at Mercury Lounge last night. It’s not just the ginger (Ryan Melia), though—in reality, they’re all multitalented. Performers switched instruments and each sang vocal harmonies at one point or another.
PigPen Theatre Co. isn’t an ironic name for a new indie-rock band: It’s the fitting moniker for actors, playwrights and singers Alex Falberg, Arya Shahi, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen, Dan Weschler, Matt Nuernberger and Melia. The troupe, which formed at Carnegie Mellon University and gained notice and praise after winning the top award for plays at The New York International Fringe Festival two years in a row, primarily lives onstage. A strong folk theme with a dash of fable pervades their shows (they titled their first three plays The Nightmare Story, The Hunter and the Bear and The Mountain Song). Their latest, The Old Man and the Moon, tells the story of an old man who takes a leave of absence from filling in the moon so he can find his wife, who had abandoned him in a sort of existential crisis.
That strong storytelling element shone brightly as PigPen played songs from their well-received debut full-length album, Bremen. The gents have learned to highlight their talents well—and each got a turn to showcase his voice during the set-closing cover of the Band’s “The Weight”—but it was Melia who starred in the show. His voice, which undoubtedly carries the band (he sang lead on almost all of the songs), was at once clear and gruff, and it quivered in a subdued and deliberate manner on songs like “Bremen,” “As Lonely as Me” and “Just Like the Sea.” If you do end up seeing PigPen, be prepared for some conversation around you because women will gush. —Alex Kapelman