In the wake of revelations that monologuist Mike Daisey mashed together fact and fiction for his Apple critique The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, the issue of truth on stage has been on theater folks’ minds. Indeed, I could feel the Daisey Effect while watching the bubbly Now. Here. This., a highly personal musical scrapbook by the creators of [title of show]. As I bopped along to Jeff Bowen’s sunny pop score and chuckled at book writers Hunter Bell and Susan Blackwell’s wistful whimsy, I had to wonder: Did Heidi Blickenstaff really destroy the neighbor’s kitchen floor with bleach? Were Blackwell’s parents hoarders? Did Bell strut his stuff as a teen model? Or is it all just lies?
Normally, I wouldn’t care, but the show is explicitly framed as an autobiographical group self-examination, delving into the pains and joys of childhood in a quest to understand how these performers got here. Taking its title from a passage by philosopher-monk Thomas Merton about living fully in the moment, the piece is sweetly cosmic in outlook: The first number, “What Are the Odds,” traces life on Earth from the first amino acid to this very second at the Vineyard. The rest of the show is structured as a larky trip through a natural-history museum. As Blackwell, Bowen et al. goof on Neanderthal dioramas and turtle exhibits, they mull over the past. Interestingly, for a show that seeks the present, a good deal of time is spent dwelling on yesteryear.
Fans of [title of show]’s meta-backstage antics and sassy digs at Broadway might be surprised by how little show-queen dish (like, none) there is in Now. Here. This. Instead, it’s a touching, plucky and heartwarming ode to art and friends (very adeptly staged by Michael Berresse). Just when you thought you knew everything about these frisky, oversharing divas, they can still surprise.—David Cote
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote