Now. Here. This. Review - A Superb New Musical

 

Now. Here. This. These three words form both the title and the central concept of a new musical by the creators of quirky hit [title of show]. Taken from the writings of Catholic saint and scholar Thomas Merton, the phrase “now. here. this.” encapsulates, in this context, both a philosophy for living a full life and a demonstration of the ways in which live theatre embodies that philosophy. Featuring gorgeous music, offbeat humor, exquisitely developed characters, and deep revelations of personal truth, this show, presented for the first time in Chicago by Brown Paper Box Co., might just be able to save us all from ourselves.

 

Matt Frye, Neala Barron, Anna Schutz, and Nick Shoda in Brown Paper Box Co.'s production of Now. Here. This.

 

Just like its predecessor, [title of show], Now. Here. This features as four-person cast of two men and two women. A four-piece band provides musical accompaniment, although Jeff Bowen’s score is so rich that it may as well be a full orchestra backstage. The cast, made up of Neala Barron, Matt Frye, Anna Schutz, and Nick Shoda, forms a strong ensemble composed of incredibly talented performers who don’t quite fit the conventional mold for musical theatre stars and yet bring vivacity and humanity to their characters in a fashion that is nothing short of breathtaking.

 

Nick Shoda, Anna Schutz, Matt Frye, and Neala Barron in Brown Paper Box Co.'s production of Now. Here. This.

 

The story takes place in a natural history museum, where four friends meet up for a relaxing day off of work. The show opens with a musical number that somehow makes the scientific facts of the origins of human life on Earth into a compelling story. The signs and exhibits at the museum play an important role in framing the events of the play and adding meaning to the personal stories each character shares. Weaving in and out of the past, the present, and the imagined future, each character is given complexity and depth through the stories they share, and the specificity of their lives connects easily to broader questions, struggles, and truths.

 

Matt Frye in Brown Paper Box Co.'s production of Now. Here. This.

 

This is a musical that juxtaposes a sidesplittingly hilarious group number about embarrassing moments with a tender and heart-wrenching song about the death of grandmothers. One man’s endearing fantasy romance with a museum guard is placed side-by-side with a woman’s sadness that her father has never told her he loves her. The song that resonated most deeply with me hinged on the idea of a Golden Palace, an imaginary structure where great artists and thinkers produce their work. This song surpasses [title of show]’s “Die Vampire, Die” as the most honest and inspirational portrayal of artistic insecurity I have ever heard.

 

Neala Barron and Anna Schutz in Brown Paper Box Co.'s production of Now. Here. This.

 

Now. Here. This. succeeds not only in answering some of life’s most difficult questions with a few simple words, but also in achieving what theatre artists of the 1970s struggled to do: creating a realized theatre of exemplification. Based in the idea that the most important and unique part of live theatre is the gathering of the audience, theatre of exemplification bursts to life in a simple and gorgeous moment at the end of the play.

 

Nick Shoda and Neala Barron in Brown Paper Box Co.'s production of Now. Here. This. All photos by Zach Dries

 

Now. Here. This. challenges its audience to the simplest and most neglected of tasks: existing in the moment. Packed with fantastic songs, smart acting choices, and straightforward truth-telling, Now. Here. This. is a masterpiece in every way a piece of theatre can be. 

 

Ticket Information

Location: Rivendell Theatre

              5779 N Ridge Ave.

              Chicago, IL 60660

Dates: July 29 - August 21, 2016

Times: Thursday - Saturdays @ 7:30pm and Sundays @ 2pm

Tickets now on sale! For more information, please visit the Brown Paper Box Co. website.

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