Master Stitchum and the Moon, at the Storefront Theater. Mickle Maher is probably the last person anyone would expect to write and direct a children's play. In his work with Theater Oobleck, the Curious Theatre Branch, and a host of other like-minded troupes, Maher has delighted in confounding audiences with elliptical word games. And he hasn't changed his sensibilities one bit in the musical Master Stitchum and the Moon, though he has shed some of the dizzying layers of subtext typical of recent works like The Hunchback Variations. At any rate Master Stitchum's most endearing quality is the sense of wide-eyed wonder and amazement that permeates all of his work.
Maher's cast moves fluidly through this wildly innovative staging, negotiating the many trapdoors of Paul Leisen's raked set, drawing additional scenery with pieces of chalk, and seemingly pulling props and modest set pieces from the air. Every bit of theatrical artifice--from Michael Smith's wistful music to Dustin Rydell's dreamy lighting--adds to the electrifying air of creativity in this modest black-box theater. It's worth noting that the play's central character--a know-it-all tailor who squanders his discovery of the moon, then rediscovers it and gives it freely to the world--is a puppet, but in Maher's hands plaster, wire, and paint are spun magically into mortal form.