‘Now and Then’ is sweet and tender

 

Cast of Now and Then at The Pride Arts Center. (John Olson photo)
Cast of Now and Then at The Pride Arts Center. (John Olson photo)

3 stars

 

“Now and Then” on stage at The Pride Arts Center is an uneventful love story that celebrates the ultimate fulfillment of a long term relationship.

Daniel and Greg meet at a college open mic night and stay together for 42 years. Daniel is an aspiring singer/songwriter while the more pragmatic Greg has aspirations of being a stand-up comedian.

The two men seek achievement in their careers, struggle to pay the rent, and ultimately find happiness and contentment through their commitment to each other while learning along the way that the key to success in love is a giving heart.

The story is told largely though song by six actors who portray the couple in three stages of life.

The unique aspect of this production is that all six actors are often on stage interacting together, suggesting perhaps that we are at every moment in our lives our current selves, our past selves and our future selves.

The young Daniel (Will Fulginiti) and young Greg (Benjamin Walton) represent the couple’s budding youthful romance. Alex Smith and Carl Herzog portray Greg and Daniel respectively in the growing years of their relationship. Skip Sams as Greg and the play’s songwriter and lyricist Dennis Manning as Daniel play the elder couple.

Just as Greg and Daniel’s relationship is based on a chance encounter, so too is the relationship between Manning and “Now and Then’s” writer, producer/director Ronnie Larsen.

Larsen met Manning in 2018 when he learned that the mattress salesman was also a songwriter. After hearing Manning’s songs Larsen penned the play and had it on stage within months. Larsen is clearly a talented theatrical craftsman to have created this piece in such a short period of time.

The fact that the songs were already written is both its strength and its weakness. Larsen uses Manning’s well written songs effectively but in the aggregate they sound like a singer/songwriter’s songbook, very unified in style.

What the music lacks from a theatrical point-of-view is a sense that a particular song was written for a particular character to achieve a particular emotion at a particular point in time.

In spite of that criticism the very capable cast uses musical dynamics to vary the mood and add drama where it is needed. “Solitary Man” is the lynch-pin song that both opens and closes the play.

Manning does yeoman’s work as the primary guitarist, but hey, these are his songs, while Will Fulginiti brings much needed youthful energy to the production with his exuberant guitar playing style and portrayal of young Daniel.

Benjamin Walton as young Greg provides much of the show’s humor. Herzog and Smith add conflict and each have memorable musical moments. Skip Sams as the elder Greg brings a sense of calm that brings the play to its ultimate resolution.

Some might want to quickly conclude that this is a “gay play” but that would be putting it in a box that limits its message. Rather, it is a play about love and commitment featuring characters who happen to be gay, but it speaks to anyone who might appreciate and value the benefits of a life well lived that is based on mutual support and true love.

This is a perfect chance to see this play before it moves to London in September 2019.

DETAILS: “Now and Then” is at The Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago through August 11, 2019. Running time: 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Now and Tnen the Musical.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

Coming next theater season on the North Side

 

Find excellent musicals at Black Ensemble Theater on Chicago's north side. (Photo courtesy of black Ensemble Theater)
Find excellent musicals at Black Ensemble Theater on Chicago’s north side. (Photo courtesy of black Ensemble Theater)

The good news for theater-goers is that Chicagoland has an amazing number of production companies so that a Jeff award worthy show is likely to be on stage at any time during the season. The annual Jeff awards are Chicago’s answer to New York’s Tony’s. The “bad” news is that because there are about 250 companies,including more than 20 in just the Edgewater neighborhood on Chicago’s northeast side, it’s hard to keep track of what will be where and when.

Chicago Theater and Arts puts out a yearly preseason sneak-peek series of already decided shows, divided by area. Categories such as themes and holiday fare will shortly follow.

After looking at “ Coming next theater season on the North Side,” which is Part 5 in the series, be sure to go back to see what theaters listed earlier are doing. It looks like a great 2019-20 Chicago theater season.

Part One was Looking ahead to the next theater season starting with Broadway in Chicago. Part Two was Theaters Downtown and on the Mag Mile).  Part three  was what will be on stage in the Lincoln Park and Near North areas.  Part 4 is a Sneak Peek at next season in Mid-North from Athenaeum to Wit. Part five lists many of the companies from Ravenswood north to the Evanston border.

For more details, tickets and subscriptions click on each theater’s link. Theater is not a typo. Some production companies use theatre others theater.

 

AstonRep

AstonRep has moved to The Edge Theare, 5451 N. Broadway. It opens with “Equua” Sept. 27 through Oct. 27, 2019. It’s spring show is the Chicago premiere of “When We Were Young and Unafraid,” April 9 through May 10, 2020.  For tickets and information visit AstonRep.

 

Black Ensemble Theater

Located at 4450 N Clark St., Black Ensemble is doing “You Can’t Fake the Funk,” July 26 through Sept 22. Rest of the season TBA. For tickers and other information call (773) 769-4451  and visit Black Ensemble Theater.

 

The Factory Theater

The venue, located at 1623 W. Howard. St., starts the 2019-20 season with “Oh Sh#t! It’s Haunted!” Sept 17 through Nov. 9 2019. It continues in 2020 with “Last Night in Karaoke Town,” Feb. 14 through Mar. 28. the summer show is “The HOA” June 12 through July 25.

The Aleatoric Theatre is also in the venue. Please visit The Factory Theatre and Aleatoric Theatre.

 

Griffin Theatre

The theatre is at  5405 N. Clark St. TBA: 2019-20 season. For information call (773) 769-2228 and visit Griffin  Theatre.

 

Interrobang Theatre

Performances are at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge Avenue. The companywill be doing the world premiere of “Out of Love” Aug. 16-Sept. 14. The season also includes “Here Lies Henry” and “Sexbot.”  For tickets and other information visit Interrobang Theatre Project.

 

Lifeline Theatre

The theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave. is currently doing “Emma,”  extended through July 28, 2019. Whose Body?, Sept. 6 through Oct. 27, 2019. In 2020 “Middle Passage” will be on stage from Feb. 14 through April 5, followed by the world premiere rock musical “LOKI, The End of the World Tour.”

For tickets and other information call (773) 761-4477 and visit Lifeline/2019-20 season.

 

Pride Arts Center

The venue is at 4139 N. Broadway . Currently at the Center are “Afterglow” extended through Aug. 28. “All That He Was” Aug. 10 through Aug. 31. “Casa Valentina’ Aug 31 through Sept. 29. “A Man of No Importance’” (TBA October + dates).
For tickets and more information visit Pride Films and Plays.

 

Raven Theatre

Located at 6157 N. Clark St.,  Raven Theatre is doing the Chicago premiere of  “Sundown Yellow Moon”, Oct. 3  through Nov. r 17, followed by “Hoodo Love,” Oct. 31 – Dec. 15, 2019. The season continues in 2020 with Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House “ Feb. 6 through Mar. 22 and ends with the world Premiere of “Eden Prarie 1971,”  May 7 through June 21.

For tickets and other information call (773) 338-2177  and visit Raven Theatre

 

Redtwist Theatre

The theatre, located at 1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., is currently doing “King Lear” through Aug. 4.  Then, “Keely and Du” are Oct, 9 through Nov. 10 followed by “Death Tax,”  Dec 11, 2019 through Jan. 19, 2020.  “Rabbit Summer” is Feb. 19 through Mar. 22 and “The Country Girl” is May 13 through June 21. “The Pride” ends the season May 28 through June 28.

For tickets and other information call (773) 728-7529  and visit Redtwist.

 

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

Located at 5779 N. Ridge Ave., the ensemble’s 2018-19 season concludes July 21 with “something Clean” performed at Voctory Gardens (see is Sneak Peek Part Three. For tickets and other information call (773) 334-7728 and visit Rivendell Theatre.

 

Steep Theatre

The theatre, 1115 W. Berwny Ave., is currently doing “Pomona” ” through Aug. 24, 2019.. For tickets and other information call (773) 649-3186 and visit Steep Theatre.

 

Jodie Jacobs

 

Sneak Peek at theater season: Part Four Ravenswood and North

Black Ensemble Theater has an excellent venue at 4450 N. Clark St. (Black EnsembleTtheater photo)
Black Ensemble Theater has an excellent venue at 4450 N. Clark St. (Black Ensemble Ttheater photo)

The old “It’s hard to keep track without a scorecard” certainly applies to Chicago’s huge theater offerings each year. So consider the “Sneak Peak”series your personal scorecard where you can put a check next to those shows you think you would like to see.

Because there are more than 200 theater production companies in the Chicago area the series is divided into regions. Not all companies are listed because some still have to finalize their season and not all theater venues are included because some are multi-purpose and host several events other than plays.  However, the series still is a way to find out what a company you like has planned and what shows will be coming in the 2018-19 season.

As mentioned before, some companies and venues use theater and others use  theatre. Part Four lists many of the companies in the Ravenswood and north to Evanston region.

 

Black Ensemble Theater

Located at 4450 N Clark St., Black Ensemble is currently doing “Rick Stone: the Blues Man,” extended through Sept 9, followed by “Women of Soul” Oct. 20 –Dec.2, 2018.

For tickers and other information call (773) 769-4451  and visit Black Ensemble Theater.

 

The Factory Theater,

The venue is at 1623 W. Howard. St. The Factory Theater plans “The Darkness After Dawn” for Fall, “.38 and Baile” for Spring and “Prophet$” for Summer. Also in the venue, the Aleatoric Theatre is doing “Come ‘n Go” Sept. 7-30.

For tickets and other information visit The Factory Theatre and Aleatoric Theatre.

 

Griffin Theatre

The theatre is at  5405 N. Clark St. Griffin is currently doing  “The Harvest” through Aug. 25.  For tickets and other information call (773) 769-2228 and visit Griffin  Theatre.

 

Lifeline Theatre

The theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave. is doing “Frankenstein” Sep.t 7-Oct. 28, 2018  then in 2019, “The Man Who Was Thursday”  Feb. 15-Apr. 7 and “Emma” May 24-July 14.

For tickets and other information call (773) 761-4477 and visit Lifeline Theatre. Read More