As you may know, the fine, talented, and delightful crew that gave us [title of show] are hard at work on a follow-up, previously titled And Now This Is Happening, and now bearing the moniker Now. Here. This. I had a chance to see a "developmental lab production" of the show last Friday at the Vineyard Theatre, which was the home of [title of show]'s Off-Broadway run.
Now, technically, critics are not invited to these developmental workshops, and I think rightly so. Artists deserve the chance to work out the kinks in their shows away from the glaring eye of the critical press. In the past, I've reviewed things that were in development, under the supposition that I wasn't really a critic, and that if they were charging admission, that I was free to propagate my views of the shows in question. But now that I'm a member of the Outer Critics Circle, it's sort of hard to continue to make that argument. I am a critic, and I need to comport myself in a manner befitting same.
But I thought my readers might appreciate a dispassionate, objective account of the show, and a sense of what the authors are trying to do with it. I will do my level best to keep all of my evaluative impulses at bay. Stop me if I get too critic-y.
If you've seen [title of show], you'll no doubt recall that it's essentially the story of putting that show together. As such, it's a fairly linear account, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Now. Here. This. is decidedly non-linear, a 90-minute collage of narrative threads and snapshots. The content is autobiographical, exploring certain formative experiences from the lives of each of the four performers on-stage.
As you may know, Hunter Bell's book for [title of show] received the show's only Tony nomination for that effort. Here, Bell shares libretto credit with Susan Blackwell, although I get the sense that both shows represent the collaborative efforts of all the creative and performance staff, including composer/lyricist Jeff Bowen and performer Heidi Blickenstaff, not to mention pianist/music director Larry Pressgrove and director Michael Berresse.
Jeff Bowen's score for Now. Here. This. is a lot more complex than the one he wrote for [title of show]. Whereas the [title of show] score featured mostly discrete songs, the score for Now. Here. This. consists of more extended sequences, with dialog and action interwoven into the mix. I've made mention in the past of the distracting amount of poor scansion in Bowen's lyrics for [title of show], and I'm happy to report that that doesn't seem to be as much of an issue in his current score, at least at its current stage of development. (Is that too review-ish?)
The main attractions of [title of show] were Bell's witty and joyful book, as well as the four performers radiating excitement and camaraderie. Now. Here. This. has the potential to replicate those charms, as well as add in a few more of its own. I greatly look forward to seeing how the show progresses.
Now. Here. This. runs through June 19th. The run is mostly sold out, but tickets are still available at the Vineyard Web site for a benefit performance on the 19th.