Ronnie Larsen’s previous plays include Making Porn and Sleeping With Straight Men. Possessing a less provocative title, Now and Then is an unconventional musical piece written in collaboration with songwriter and guitarist Dennis Manning.
It tells a distinctly domestic story of a young couple who meet at an open-mic night in the American Mid West. Daniel is a budding singer/songwriter and Greg has dreams of a stand-up comedy career. Their life together over the next 40 years is played out in drama and song by three different pairs of performers.
Larsen has fashioned a compelling narrative that juxtaposes the dreams of their youth with the issues they face as adults. It’s an interesting conceit, made all the more engaging by Manning’s folk score played on acoustic guitar by the three actors playing Daniel.
Harry Blumenau’s economical direction brings out the lightness of Larsen’s script and David Shields’ excellent set, styled like a Nashville bar, adds to the bluegrass flavour of this love story.
Some of the accents might waver but the performances fuse together beautifully to deliver a colourful portrait of a life-long relationship.
Freddie Woodyatt is disarmingly persuasive as the young Greg while Taylor Rettke dissects Daniel’s mid-life crisis with tortured honesty. But it’s Leo Andrew and Richard Costello, as the older couple, who give this show its emotional heft. Andrew’s touching stoicism as he faces death is utterly heartbreaking and this is echoed perfectly in the burly timbre of Costello’s vocals.