By Michael Levinton, Laura von Holt and Little Lord; Directed by Michael Levinton
Produced by Little Lord
Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 11.15.16
Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street
by Keith Paul Medelis on 10.25.16
Ry Szelong, Kaaron Briscoe, and Morgan Lindsey Tachco in NOW IS THE TIME. Photo by Kelly Stuart.
BOTTOM LINE: A bizarre, cerebral jaunt through under-appreciated American folklore, as seen through a relevant, New York lens.
Leaving yourself an hour to go on a thirty minute trip, the train stalls underground. Arriving late to work, you offer the usual excuse of train problems. Lunch comes and you’re too lazy to go outside, so you order Seamless. After work you meet up with a friend, conveniently on the same line as you (you know you’ll never be going to Queens). You walk into their apartment, having seen the neighborhood with envy, and clock that it’s only a two-bedroom. You ask how much the rent is. Exhausted, you dream of upstate. If only you had a car.
NOW IS THE TIME is about this. It’s about New York. As a devised piece—the kind of work Little Lord has been developing since its inception—you imagine its origins as a group of young, Brooklyn-based artists sitting around a table with a simple prompt: what is it like to live in a New York that’s exponentially changing yet somehow staying exactly the same?
My mind wandered for the entirety of NOW IS THE TIME. And I’m not entirely sure this wasn’t the point. Enormously meditative, funnier than my matinee audience realized or wanted it to be, and an elaborate poem for the senses, the play finds Diedrich Knickerbocker (Michael Levinton) attempting to compile “A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty.” Knickerbocker is a character created by Washington Irving (of Rip Van Winkle fame), brought to new life here by Little Lord.
We’re served coleslaw and pickles upon entry. There’s a “smoking section” sign, extinct, now precariously hanging at the edge of the stage. There are remnants of gift shops and Coney Island beach chairs, nostalgia now replaced with high towers and ludicrous theme park versions of what once was. Yet we still complain like New Yorkers; we are envious like New Yorkers; we dream of things we can’t have; we plow forward in the face of obstacles. New York is still all of that. When my mind wandered, or I was lost momentarily, I went back to vague reminders of the acid in the pickles and the soggy crunch of the coleslaw. “Ah, diners,” I thought. This is a New York play. We signed up for this? And, also, where's the seltzer water?
So here’s the deal: NOW IS THE TIME is definitely not for everybody. Though if you’re into this sort of thing, you’ll be leaving with all of the feels. Young, starving artists are probably going to get this play, or take away something entirely different from what I’ve parsed out here. All that seems fine. There are garden gnomes everywhere. They sing, they dance, they tell stories. For my money they’re overused, but you may be totally on board. I’m not recommending this for out-of-town folks. There is, however, some solid work happening here with a company I’d like to spend some more time with. In the bizarre way that the play calls for, the talent is on point. The design work from Peiyi Wong, Karen Boyer, Marika Kent, and Kate Marvin is strange and immersive, making the most of the ex-atrium structure of Abrons Art Center’s downstairs theater. Michael Levinton’s directorial stamp is all over his work, each movement meticulous and often placed in a world that feels disjointedly real.
It’s possible I’m way off the mark here. Or you’ll see this play and have an altogether different takeaway. This is New York theater about New York things happening in this quintessential autumn moment: apples in season, leaves turning. Now is the time, indeed.
(NOW IS THE TIME. plays at Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street, through November 15, 2016. Performances are Wednesdays through Fridays at 7:30 and Saturdays at 2:30 and 7:30. Tickets are $20-$25 and are available at abronsartscenter.org or by calling 866-811-4111. More information at littlelordnow.com)
NOW IS THE TIME. is written by Michael Levinton, Laura von Holt and Little Lord. It is directed by Michael Levinton. The scenic design is by Peiyi Wong. The costume design is by Karen Boyer. The lighting design is by Marika Kent. The sound design is by Kate Marvin. The Production Stage Manager is Laura Schatten.
The cast features Kaaron Briscoe, David GR Brummer, Lisa Rafaela Clair, Avi Glickstein, Fernando Gonzalez, Sauda Jackson, Michael Levinton, Ry Szelong, and Morgan Lindsey Tacho.