Now Circa Then

Historical reenactors fall for each other in Carly Mensch's fresh new play.

  • TIME OUT OF MIND Sebastian, left, makes history come alive with Plunkett.

TIME OUT OF MIND Sebastian, left, makes history come alive with Plunkett.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5



Add Carly Mensch's name to the ever-growing list of upstart playwrights lured away from the theater by television's sweet, and profitable, siren song. Though Mensch may punch the clock writing for Showtime's Weeds, she hasn't forgotten her Off-Off Broadway roots. Somehow, laughing through her delightfully quirky relationship comedy, Now Circa Then, makes the pain of losing another talented writer to Hollywood slightly more bearable.

Add Carly Mensch's name to the ever-growing list of upstart playwrights lured away from the theater by television's sweet, and profitable, siren song. Though Mensch may punch the clock writing for Showtime's Weeds, she hasn't forgotten her Off-Off Broadway roots. Somehow, laughing through her delightfully quirky relationship comedy, Now Circa Then, makes the pain of losing another talented writer to Hollywood slightly more bearable.

Gideon (Plunkett) and Margie (Sebastian) are historical reenactors at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, playing a West Prussian immigrant couple in 1890s New York. Uptight history buff Gideon is a veteran of the living-history museum circuit, while Margie, a recent New York transplant from small-town Michigan, thinks people should "stop worshipping boring old facts." Adrift in their respective midtwenties life crises, their budding romance begins to parallel the historical characters they portray, embracing the immigrant spirit of personal reinvention.

Mensch clearly has a sharp ear for dialogue, presumably a skill honed by writing for prime time, even though one wishes she leaned a bit less on that format for the play's abbreviated dramatic structure. Plunkett and Sebastian give superb performances, mining the text for every possible joke, at times even surpassing the material (Sebastian in particular demonstrates impeccable comic timing). While you can't fault young dramatists for cashing Showtime paychecks, Now Circa Then makes you hope they maintain a strong connection to their not-too-distant past.

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Ars Nova. By Carly Mensch. Dir. Jason Eagan. With Stephen Plunkett, Maureen Sebastian. 1hr 45mins. No intermission.