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A CurtainUp Review
The Undeniable Sound Of Right Now
By Elyse Sommer
Don't be fooled by the pulsating beat of that music. What really pulsates here is a very human story about people to whom you can relate even if you're not passionate about or interested in rock music. Oh, there's plenty of talk about rock music as well as the current preference for deejays who spin a mix of musical styles— and a burst of earsplitting music serves to transition between each of the play's twelve scenes.
Eason has written a universal story that will resonate deeply with the many who've lost a job they loved as a result of of downsizing, new technologies; in short, the "right now" aspects of our society. For the charismatic, Hank (Jeb Brown) the live evenings at his club are legendary but passé since, per Eason's title, the big draw or "right now" sound in 1992 is what a DJ spins on their turntables.
Over the course of a couple of weeks we watch Hank's anger and fear of being old before his time. Though not yet 60 (isn't that what we call the new 40 these days?) he's forced to confront the end of a life he loved.
Besides the need to recognize that the music that's been his life, Hank sees Lena (Margo Seibert), his beloved daughter and the club's business manager, changing. That change is triggered by her romance with an ambitious musician who unlike Hank is smitten with Nash (Daniel Abeles). Lena's story which focuses on the potent love between this father and daughter, is equally compelling.
Eason cleverly and poignantly explores the fallout from this out with the old and in with the new world in tandem with these parallel parent-child and man-woman relationships. Her story pivots around how Hank and Lena, both brought richly nuanced life by Brown and Seibert, but this isn't a two-character play like last year's Sex With Strangers .
There are three other characters besides the already mentioned Nash. All four of the subsidiary characters intensify and deepen the situation facing the club that's been Lena and Hank's life and home — that defines who they are and will be to each other. In their own way each of these ensemble characters represents another aspect of the importance of the title's not to be denied sound.
Toby (Brian Miskell), who works at the club, represents one of the millions who've long left their small towns for a more interesting life in in a cultural hub city. Nash (Daniel Abeles), Lena's new boyfriend represents the open to change musicians, having traded his guitar for a turntable when he discovered its creative possibilities. Bette (Lusia Strus) is Hank's ex-wife who lost him to Lena's mother, but like him she fell in love with Baby Lena, and consequently helped raise her. For the inevitable money issue there's Joey (Chris Kipiniak), the son of the landlord who's more hard-nosed than his father about collecting the rent and the validity of verbal lease arrangement.
Nash and Toby and Lena haven't forgotten Hank's era but they are less rigid and thus attuned to that undeniable sound of "right now." A sequel set today would show them too confronting their own possible loss of relevance.
I don't know about Chicago, but New York still has a small cadre of tenants clinging to obsolete leases. Joey's refusal to honor Hank's handshake arrangement with his father reminds me of Adam Langer's terrific 2008 novel , Ellington Boulevard, which revolves around a musician facing eviction due to a Manhattan condo conversion.
The ensemble performances are all excellent. Lusia Strus is particularly memorable as Hank's tough, funny, still in-love ex-wife, and Lena's surrogate mother. For fans of the golden oldie black and white movies that show up on the Turner Movie Channel, she'll evoke memories of some of that genre's throaty voiced stars.
The production overall benefits from having director and film maker Kirsten Kelly aboard to guide actors and designers to make the most of their talents. Their combined efforts add up to a compelling 95 minutes.
While Laura Eason has penned some twenty plays and is also a contributor to the Netflix hit House of Cards, CurtainUp has only reviewed href="wnenthemessengerishot.html">When the Messenger is Hot at Second Stage in 2007 and Sex With Strangers . Based on this new play, here's hoping we'll have a chance to review more — and soon.