Siena Marilyn Ledger’s brand-new two-person play, being produced here with 16th Street Theater and Dragonfly Theatre as part of the National New Play Network rolling world premiere program, is based on a deceptively simple premise. Luna, a quirky and precocious tween whose mother is undergoing cancer treatment, befriends Aaron, another cancer patient, also in the midst of a gender transition, undergoing treatment at the same clinic. In the wrong hands such a premise could be painfully sentimental or, worse, deadly dull. But Ledger is too clever a writer to fall into either trap. Their characters are fresh and interesting, and the story that unfolds in this tight, intermissionless 90-minute play is absorbing without being forced or unreal.
Man and Moon Through 11/13: Thu-Fri 8 PM, Sat 4 and 8 PM, Sun 2 PM; no performance Thu 11/3; Madison Street Theater, 1010 Madison, Forest Park, 708-795-6704, 16thstreettheater.org, $25 (virtual performances $10)
It helps that the lead actors—indeed, the play’s only actors—Clare Wols and Peter Danger Wilde work so well together. Over the course of the play we see these two grow together as they face the harsh realities of their lives. (Though we never see Luna’s mother, we come to realize just how desperately ill she is.) Under Hayley Procacci’s direction, Wols and Wilde deliver the kind of performances that grab an audience from the get-go, and never let us go. Wols in particular brings a remarkable energy, intelligence, and depth to her part. In lesser hands this role could have been played as a mere middle-school version of manic pixie dream girl—the eccentric free spirit who teaches another character to love life again—but 12-year-old Wols possesses acting chops way beyond her years.
Editor’s note: On Tuesday, October 25, the board of 16th Street Theater announced that they were shuttering operations at the end of the year. Man and Moon is the last full production they will be offering.