Creative use of space, dense dialogue define thought−provoking, thoroughly modern ‘Now or Later’
Theater Review | 3.5 out of 5 stars
Published: Friday, October 26, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 26, 2012 01:10
Though it illuminates controversial topics such as religion, politics, liberty and homosexuality, the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of “Now or Later” might leave its audience more confused on these issues than they were when they walked in.
Although the play is over 90 minutes in length, it takes place entirely in a single hotel room. This forces the actors to make complete use of their limited set.
An interesting aspect of this production is that none of the objects central to the play’s major themes are ever shown to the audience. Though pictures and speeches are referenced, they are never shown. Furthermore, actual props are used in creative ways to shed light on the character’s personalities.
A mini−fridge, for instance, is used to unconventionally portray the quirks of a couple characters. While the snarky Tracy (Adriane Lenox) takes liquor out of the fridge, John (Grant MacDermott) refuses to drink even water from the fridge due to his stringent principles against alcohol.
The lighting remains fairly consistent throughout the play. A spotlight is cast on John to illuminate his presence as the protagonist. He is surrounded by a darkness that mirrors society’s until the lights dim to black at the play’s end.
The script encompasses difficult societal and political tensions and sheds light on the way society functions. Considering the ambition a writer must have to tackle controversial themes, the dialogue is notably dense and rich with social critique. Viewers are forced to watch the play with fixed eyes and pointed ears, as each line offers either a thought−provoking claim or a subtle, critical jab. This becomes problematic with the flow of the production, though. Because the language is so academic and the dialogue consists of mini−monologues, the interactions between characters often feel forced and unnatural. The debates that they engage comprise one of the play’s most powerful aspects by accurately mirroring and simulating the way people argue in everyday life. By showing us an argument that is simultaneously relatable and engaging, “Now or Later” urges viewers to reconsider these types of interactions and how they are portrayed.
This unusual script has an important effect on how we view the actors, as well. On the surface, for example, we may prefer characters like Jessica (Alexandra Neil), who has hilarious tendencies and a distinctive personality. It must be noted, however, that Neil’s job as an actress is considerably easier than, say, Lenox’s. This is because Jessica’s lines are not as content−rich, so her role as the mother in the play is more believable and realistic. Lenox, on the other hand, who plays Tracy, had more difficult ground to cover, and runs the risk of sounding phony.
Despite the hurdle, however, Lenox does a pristine job. As Tracy she is able to bridge the gap between being likeable and knowledgeable, something that the character John is unable to do with a similar grace. His character seems the least believable, but he is also the character given the most archaic lines. This could have been intentional due to his status as an Ivy League college student, but it does still create a fair amount of disconnect between John — the play’s protagonist — and his audience.
Overall, “Now or Later” is without a doubt a play worth seeing. With the upcoming election and ongoing debates, its messages are crucial as we start thinking about the political climate surrounding us. By raising creative questions of philosophical importance rather than standard campaign trivia, the play has the potential to get citizens thinking in new ways about how to cast their opinion on political parties. “Now or Later” is running at the Calderwood Pavilion from Oct. 12 to Nov. 10.