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Be Here Now

a Comedy/Drama
by Deborah Zoe Laufer

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 5348

SHOWING : September 20, 2018 - October 21, 2018



Bari is in a perpetual funk, biding her time at a mind-numbing job shipping Tibetan-themed tchotchkes. Cheerful co-workers Patty and Luanne try to see past her cynical exterior through their Prozac-colored glasses. Will Bari ever leave her parents’ house in provincial upstate New York? Will she finish her dissertation? Will she go on a blind date with a dude who makes art out of garbage? And what’s up with her headaches and the bizarre side-effects? The answers await in this wonderfully weird comedy that will have you in stitches.

Bari Cynthia Barrett
Luanne Falashay Pearson
Mike Travis Smith
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Been There, Done That
by playgoer
Friday, September 28, 2018
First we’re confronted by Isabel & Moriah Curley-Clay’s massive set, all brick columns and wood beams, with a large wooden structure center, initially decked out with a hanging suggesting a yoga studio. Concurrently, we’re confronted by pre-show music of classic rock songs, set at an extreme volume in Kacie Willis’ sound design that causes some audience members to bounce in their seats, singing along, and others to cover their ears. When the show starts, we hear the ringing of a bell and the soothing voice of a yogi, all amplified to a volume that is anything but calm and restful. At least, after this inauspicious start, we can see that Bari (Cynthia Barrett), on a yoga mat center, is totally not buying into this meditation and exercise crap.

The next scene emphasizes the massive scale of the Curley-Clay’s set by rolling in two floor-to-ceiling sets of shelves, representing the warehouse of a fulfillment center. Later scenes roll the shelves off to reveal the center wooden structure revolved and/or covered to represent a restaurant front, a cluttered residence, and a hospital. When a rain scene comes, we see water spilling down black mesh or plastic screens positioned at the top of the set. When spring arrives in the last scene, we see massive projections of trees on the screens at the sides of the set. And through it all, we see two desiccating trees propped up in the back corners of the set, completely belying any semblance of the burgeoning promise of spring.

The BIG but deficient design elements extend to Cody Russell’s props. For the warehouse scenes, the actresses are boxing orders to be shipped out. But when they are using pre-made boxes and the boxes have obviously had tape torn off them, it’s clear that they are being re-used from previous performances. I only hope that by the end of the run they don’t run out of the gift wrapping paper that is installed on rolls on the stage left side of the shelves. Wrapping and boxing isn’t being done very professionally, so there’s a lot of unnecessary waste.

Other technical elements are better. Nicole Clockel’s costumes are fine, and Maranda Debusk’s lighting design is excellent, letting us know when Bari is experiencing heightened mental states (although the wonderful performance by Ms. Barrett would let us know on its own). Aside from the oppressively monumental scale, the visuals of the production are impressive.

Performances are another matter. Ms. Barrett is spot-on perfect throughout, and Travis Smith gives another one of his wonderful performances as a would-be suitor. Director Rachel Parish, though, has made Falashay Pearson and Joselin Reyes act like buffoons as Bari’s Prozac-ingesting warehouse buddies. One is black and one is Hispanic (in ethnicity and accent) and they’re both supposed to be cousins of the white Mr. Smith, and in conjunction with the buffoonish acting it screams "We’re being inclusive in our casting!" It’s another example of Aurora patting itself on the back for being on the forefront of diversity while forgetting that its foremost mission should be to present excellent theatrical productions.

The core story of the script shows how a medical condition can turn a sour nihilist into a person embracing a joy for life, and how that joy can help another person overcome long-seated mistrust. That part of the show is fine. But the action is padded with warehouse scenes that extend the intermissionless running time to the point that audience members start leaving before the end. When an audience leaves at intermission, that’s a bad sign, but when they leave during the show itself, it’s a worse sign.

Go see the show for the wonderful performances by Cynthia Barrett and Travis Smith, or if you like BIG production elements and LOVE to sit for extended periods of time. Otherwise, this is one to stay away from. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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