the arts

Now Now Oh Now

The Rude Mechs' latest show is a mind-blowing roll of the die

Reviewed by Elizabeth Cobbe, Fri., May 25, 2012

Lana Lesley
Lana Lesley
Courtesy of Bret Brookshire

Now Now Oh Now

The Off Center, 2211-A Hidalgo
Through June 9
Running time: 1 hr., 30 min.

Once again, it's difficult to review a production from the Rude Mechanicals. This time, it's because the sense of discovery is the play's greatest strength, and to say anything at all about Now Now Oh Now's first act would be to spoil the game for future audiences.

As a stand-in for a proper summary, let's try this: There are birds, riddles, tokens, books, and quests. The feeling of uncertainty adds to the fun. Those with significant mobility impairments might feel left out – but not for long. Boredom is impossible.

Later, there is also a story of four people who created a fantastical role-playing world together: a world with mass destruction available at the roll of a die. The whole game fell apart when real-life tragedy intervened. Together with this sense of a make-believe world subject to the whims of chaos, the company weaves into the work ideas from evolutionary biology, and questions of how much control over our futures we really possess.

Now Now Oh Now features three sets, one for each act. Especially in the first act (design by Thomas Graves, also a performer), the sets practically serve as characters themselves. Watching each of them change with the story is fascinating. Again, to provide more detail would be to spoil the surprise; the list of credits for set designers, prop designers, and assistants numbered more than 10. And – speaking personally – you can never, ever go wrong with a secret passageway.

The Rude Mechanicals have set a high bar in Austin for work that is original and unconventional. Now Now Oh Now is a strong show, and set against the context of the company's other work, it's solid.

One of the great satisfactions of a well crafted play is seeing disparate elements that have been distributed throughout the play brought together. Now Now Oh Now places itself in a challenging spot in regard to wrangling all its many components into a meaningful ending. Partly, that's because the two forms of role-playing that are included in the production have a very different feel to them: One is goal-oriented and interactive; the other is self-indulgent and explores an emotional circumstance. Also, transitioning the audience from being active players in the story to watching as spectators is tricky. Put another way, beginning with an anti-play and ending with a play-play means that things that would work brilliantly in any other play-play don't possess the same wattage.

But good golly: Now Now Oh Now is a delightful way to have your mind blown. It's well worth rolling the dice, just to see what happens.


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