The Rude Mechs' Now Now Oh Now
Version 3.0 of this look at role-playing games tests how deeply we engage in our quests for beauty and truth
Reviewed by Elizabeth Cobbe, Fri., Dec. 18, 2015
It's interesting that so much overlap exists between the theatre arts and nerd culture. That's an informal observation, mind you, but experience says that an awful lot of theatre artists get really excited by sci-fi, comic books, and role-playing games, and a lot of nerds are former high school drama kids who still enjoy dressing up and telling stories. Could it be that they have something in common? Ah yes: creating costumes and alternate worlds to tell stories that deliver meaning to a community!
The Rude Mechs, ever ones to play with form and structure, take advantage of the ways in which stories are created in role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons (in which a game master rolls the dice and keeps track of the group's adventure) with their play Now Now Oh Now. As a collaborative theatre collective, they create worlds and plays and stories as a team anyway, as evidenced by the overlapping and confusing list of credits in the program. Here they take that commonality and run with it, seeking out conclusions about beauty, mortality, and how we become who we are in each moment.
At the opening of the play, the audience is informed that they will watch a group of role-playing gamers who are far along into a shared adventure in their made-up world. The ensemble solves puzzles and devises new plot twists to defeat its enemy. The names of characters and places aren't as important as understanding that this flawed group of people are doing pretty well, but then conflict arises that brings their world of imagination to an end.
At that point, the playing space becomes a space for the audience to explore and engage in their own quest. To say much more would be to spoil the pleasure of surprise, so instead, for those who attend, be prepared to collaborate yourselves.
The current production is a revival, and the show has evolved since its premiere to become tighter and more coherent. The reordering of scenes and a significant rewrite of one major section have clarified the central ideas of the play. The tech remains impressive, and the list of those who designed and built the show is very long.
All elements point to the transience of each passing moment, and of all our moments added up. In this show, we are both audience and storyteller, observer and player. An audience comes to the theatre in search of truth, beauty, or both (a recurring theme in the company's work); a player seeks to create them. The show would lead us to believe that the search for beauty leads us down paths we might otherwise never have taken.
Now Now Oh NowThe Off Center, 2211 Hidalgo
Through Dec. 19
Running time: 1 hr., 15 min.