Oscar E Moore

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Now Circa Then – where the past and present bond beautifully at Ars Nova

September 28th, 2010 by Oscar E Moore

Stephen Plunkett & Maureen Sebastian

Stephen Plunkett & Maureen Sebastian

Now Circa Then – where the past and present bond beautifully at Ars Nova is a worthy and much welcomed addition to the 2010 theatrical season and you should make every effort to see it.

One of the many wonderful aspects about the play written by Carly Mensch is that the audience is always kept on alert.  We never know what’s coming next.  It’s an original take on the relationship of two couples played expertly and with fine character nuance by both Stephen Plunkett (who has a tinge of Jack Lemon going for him) and Maureen Sebastian (who is remarkably humane and so very funny).  Now Circa Then is refreshing, delightful, charming and intelligent. 

Yes, intelligent without any elitism and yet surprisingly heartfelt at the same time.  The dialogue sparkles.  And draws you in to the lives of Gideon and Margie –  a modern day couple that fate has thrown together in a museum where they are hired “re-enactors” – actors telling the story of Julian and Josephine, an immigrant couple on New York’s Lower East Side, circa 1890.

Only Margie isn’t an actress.  She has recently moved to New York from Michigan to reinvent herself, is short of cash and desperately in need of a job – which she just happens to get alongside of Gideon who is passionate about history and wary of this newcomer. 

The play takes place in a reconstructed railroad tenement apartment – parlor, kitchen and bedroom.  It’s remarkable what set designer Lauren Helpern has accomplished through the sheer magic of theatrical ingenuity.

Enhanced by the atmospheric lighting by Traci Klainer who bathes each scene with finesse and ups the wattage when Gideon and Margie are reenacting the historical or rather hysterical tour for the audience which focuses on the lives of Julian and Josephine.

Costumes by Jenny Mannis and original music and sound by Ryan Rumery add to the period authenticity.

Director Jason Eagan has brought all of these factors beautifully together to make Now Circa Then the extremely exciting event it is.  As the relationship develops between Gideon and Margie and nerves frazzle their story starts to be included and to interrupt the tour story of Julian and Josephine.

You will like these characters.  Care for them. Be moved by them.  Perhaps even identify with them.  I loved this production.

www.arsnovanyc.com  Through Oct 9th    Tickets $25.00     212 352 3101

Photo: Carol Rosegg

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