Now and Then loses its place in time | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Now and Then loses its place in time 

The stakes are too low in this musical about the life span of a gay relationship.

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Three versions of lovers Daniel and Greg—in their 20s, 30s, and "50s and older"—occupy the stage in this original musical by Dennis Manning (songs) and Ronnie Larsen (book). The pair meet in college, maybe around 2000, a fact gleaned from tossed-in pop culture references: John Denver's dead, Beyoncé is famous. Thus the oldest iteration of the couple, who've weathered 40-plus years, is living in the 2040s at the earliest, which here looks identical to the present day. More puzzling, Greg mentions the toy he most wanted as a boy—an Easy-Bake Oven—was a "crazy new thing" when he was 12. It was brought to market in 1963.

Perhaps it's nitpicking to dwell on the show's muddled chronology when its creators want audiences to focus on the trials, tribulations, and sassyish banter of a long-term gay relationship. But given that the play's central conceit puts past, present, and future simultaneously onstage for most of the show, the time line is in essence its spine. More importantly, the creators give us little else to mull on for two hours, as nothing much develops in the men's relationship except intermittent dustups resolved by singing a love song or three. And since the oldest version of the couple has settled into relative comfort and contentment, little is at stake along the way.

Director Larsen's staging for Now & Then Productions is earnest and candid but feels underprepared, and the multiple Gregs and Daniels lack discernible chemistry.   v

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