By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Approx. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission
At a certain time in our lives, well, for most of us, we get “set in our ways,” and nothing anyone says or does can make us budge. We dig our heels in and cross our arms and stamp our feet when our routine is upset. However, whether we like it or not, circumstances we can’t control arise that force us to step out of our comfortable routines and it’s usually jarring push. Life throws us curveballs and we have to deal with them as they come straight for our heads. This is explored in Everyman Theatre’s latest offering, Be Here Now by Deborah Zoe Laufer, who also puts on the hat of Director, and through relatable characters and thoughtful dialogue we take a peek into one woman’s journey of reconciling what she thought the world was, to the possibilities of what it can be.
In a nutshell, Be Here Now concerns itself with Bari, a cynical, unhappy woman who is struggling to find her place in the world while all the while working at a fulfillment center in a small middle-class town, writing a dissertation about how nothing matters and nothing has meaning… a dissertations she’s been working on for years. On the other side of that spectrum is the confident, optimistic Patty, and bright-eyed, naïve Luanne who care about Bari, but sometimes gets on her nerves by trying to help her. Bari then meets Mike, a quirky guy who makes art out of trash and all of a sudden Bari feels the need to help him out of a certain darkness. The question that arises is what lengths would we go to for a life of happiness, love, and meaning?
Situations in life can get awkward and people lose hope sometimes, but there are also folks who see the brighter side of things and that’s what this play is about. Sometimes we need help seeing that bright side and whether that helps comes from within us or from another person, we all need it once in awhile. And once we experience happiness and joy, what do we do or what would we do to keep it? Are we even willing to sacrifice ourselves? These are questions that arise in this piece and, overall, it’s a poignant, thoughtful piece that certainly has the drama needed to tell the story but also the slight, but deliberate comedy that keeps us from going completely over the edge.
Set Design by Daniel Ettinger is absolutely outstanding and Ettinger has yet to disappoint when it comes to his designs. His knowledge and use of the space is superb and his attention to detail is top notch. Creating three spaces (and more) with a simple revolve keeps the action of this piece moving and helps keep the pacing on track. Kudos to Ettinger for another job well done.
In tandem with Ettinger’s Set Design, Lighting Design by Harold F. Burgess II and Sound Design by Sarah O’Halloran go hand in hand to create moods for each scene and the subtle changes in levels of light and sound pull the audience into the scene keeping everything and everyone engaged.
Author Deborah Zoe Laufer takes the reigns as Director of this production and, obviously, she has a tight grasp on the material and presents it beautifully. Her guidance and knowledge of these characters and text bring the production to another level. Pacing is spot on, characters are fleshed out, and the action keeps the story is entertaining and thoughtful. Laufer knows her way around the stage making for a terrific showing as an Author/Director combo.
Moving to the performance aspect of this production, four magnificent actors take on these characters and make them their own, making them relatable and approachable. Shubhangi Kuchibhotla shines as Luanne Cooper, the young, naïve optimist, and seems to have a good comprehension of what this character is and how she operates. She makes her likable from the start and presents a nice blend of naiveté and cosmopolitan knowledge that makes her just quirky enough to be rooting for. Katy Carkuff tackles the role of Patty Cooper, the slightly older, rough-around-the-edges, confident woman who speaks her mind, but with good intentions, and Carkuff is the standout in this production. She certainly makes this role her own and from the moment she steps on stage, the authenticity completely sucks the audience in. Carkuff is certainly one to watch in this production. Kudos to both for strong, confident performances.
Rounding out the cast is Beth Hylton as Bari and Kyle Prue as Mike Cooper, the unlikely couple, if that’s what they are, and both Hylton and Prue bring out the idiosyncrasies of each character in a way that makes them both endearing. Hylton gives a solid performance of this cynical, no-holds-barred character and the subtle, gradual transition of Bari from the beginning to the end of the play is phenomenal. Hats off to Hylton for her efforts.
Prue is another highlight in this production and his portrayal of Mike, a man with a lot of demons following him, real or imagined, is authentic and sincere. He knows this character and plays him in a way that you just want to give him a hug and tell him everything’s going to be all right. His delivery of the dialogue natural and the mannerisms he gives to this character make him all the more real. He gives a strong, assured performance that is not to be overlooked.
Final thought… Be Here Now may not be a completely original story, but it is definitely entertaining and engaging as well as aesthetically pleasing. The very relatable characters and dialogue keep the audience interested and the performances are top-notch. It’s a story of finding the good in bad things, whatever they may be and how people are able to change as circumstances in their lives change. I would chalk this up as a bonafide success for Everyman Theatre and is not one to be missed this season.
This is what I thought of Be Here Now at Everyman Theatre… what did you think? Feel free to drop a comment!
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