In acting class, teachers often ask students: “Where are you?” What they’re really asking is: What surrounds you? How does your environment impact your choices? Where are you coming from, and why? The more you know the answers to these questions, the more you are, definitively, anywhere at all.
It’s a little odd that the family members in Be Here Now are so focused on personal journeys and hard-won lessons, because from start to end the show feels utterly location-less. Affairs end and begin, the world gets traveled, and hearts mend and break, but it’s all on behalf of a languid group of pseudo-introverts — six characters in search of a purpose, making cursory discussion of life and love while they wait for some spark to strike.
The youngest sister Izzy (Lauren Uberman) has a severe case of wanderlust, and decides to pawn a family heirloom to finance an odyssey to New Zealand, much to the chagrin of her best friend Zeke (Jacob Yeh). Her older sister Michelle (Allyson Harkey), a former fashion model, decides to pursue a fling with a handsome soldier at a bar (Eric Humphries), thereby flinging her fiancee Patrick (Marcus Kyd) to the wayside without a second thought. And Olivia (Karen Lange) can only dream of being so spontaneous, paralyzed as she is not only by timidity but by an inescapable desire for a man she deems off-limits.
The script by Carson Kreitzer is loosely based on Chekhov’s Three Sisters, but this version retains none of the stately despair and creeping dread that permeates the Russian. Kreitzer’s a little hazy on the details — the family may or may not be struggling very much with money, mobility, and the memory of a late matriarch — and, with no traction to grab, the show wanders along with lackadaisical ease. A series of monologues, addressed to no one in particular, pass the time: musings on marriage, home ownership, skateboarding, and how to get stains out of fabric. You can practically hear the thumbs twiddling.
The production feels not so much directed as curated; under Lise Bruneau’s considered hand, all movement and action is clean, measured, and well-informed. It’s too bad the script is soporific, because the acting is quite strong. Everyone onstage finds — or, during slow pages, creates — some great moments together in quick glances, small smiles and nervous tics. Kyd, in particular, has hit on some alchemical process for pulling naturalism and subtext from his lines. But when the stakes are so low (here, redecorating a parlor passes for a plot twist) even smartly delivered dialogue grows forgettable awfully fast.
Will Izzy heed the greeting-card advice on life she picks up from a mysterious surfer guru in New Zealand? Seems like it, although she seemed to be doing fine on her own. Will Michelle regret her sordid affair? Perhaps, although she and Patrick were clearly a bad match from the start. Will Olivia paint her walls and stop moping? One can only hope. Despite getting a smart, thoughtful staging, the show doesn’t earn the level of preciousness Kreitzer seems to assume it does. Many moments twinkle with self-awareness, like a well-cut gem. Maybe that’s why, from scene to scene, it looks exactly the same from all angles.
So in the end, where are we? Well… we’ve made it here, from there.
So… we’re here… where?
Be Here Now
Written by Carson Kreitzer
Directed by Lise Bruneau
Produced by Pinky Swear Productions
Reviewed by Hunter Styles
Running Time: 70 minutes
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?