“The Mountain Song” will make anyone feel like a kid by a campfire. It’s American folk theater, an Appalachian fable told through inventive puppetry and well-crafted narrative songs, which are performed live by its actors on banjo, guitar, drum and accordion. The tale is a wilderness adventure with some whimsical twists. It features a lonely mountain, formidable rivers, a friendly giant and some wild predators.
The show’s creator/performers, 7 recent graduates of Carnegie Mellon, call themselves PigPen Theatre. The name implies sloppiness, but the troupe is anything but. Their play is impeccably choreographed and their comic rhythms are well honed. A true ensemble, each actor wears several hats and takes turns stepping into the spotlight for a few hammy moments each.
PigPen tells a simple story using deeply ingrained iconography and some low-tech yet sophisticated theatrical devices. As hard as they work on stage, they make their audience work too, asking us to project vast terrains and lovable heroes onto shadows and cloth. There is real emotional power in this kind of imaginative collaboration. “The Mountain Song” is a play for all ages but is childlike in the best possible ways.
Kudos to Company One for taking a break from its usual, deliberately disquieting fare to kick off the summer with something truly playful.
“The Mountain Song” plays through June 25in in Hall A of the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts.