September 29, 2010

Everyone brings emotional baggage into a relationship, but the young twosome in “Now Circa Then,” a new comedy by Carly Mensch at Ars Nova, aren’t just lugging their own drama behind them. Also stuffed into their spiritual suitcases are the histories of a pair of dead strangers, Prussian immigrants from the 19th century named Julian and Josephine Glockner. In their jobs as tour guides and “re-enactors” in a tenement museum on the Lower East Side, Gideon (Stephen Plunkett) and Margie (Maureen Sebastian) portray the poor but enterprising Glockners. Meeting does not get much cuter than this, and the early scenes of “Now Circa Then,” directed by Jason Eagan, bubble with comic promise. Dolled up in skin-shrouding period costumes, Gideon and Margie make like animated waxworks in a historical diorama. From their perches in a perfectly preserved facsimile of a 19th-century tenement apartment — the atmospheric set is by Lauren Helpern — they dispense nuggets of information about the immigrant experience. And they soon find that the life stories of the exemplary strivers they are impersonating begin to subtly influence their own.


September 30, 2010

Add Carly Mensch’s name to the ever-growing list of upstart playwrights lured away from the theater by television’s sweet, and profitable, siren song. Though Mensch may punch the clock writing for Showtime’s Weeds, she hasn’t forgotten her Off-Off Broadway roots. Somehow, laughing through her delightfully quirky relationship comedy, Now Circa Then, makes the pain of losing another talented writer to Hollywood slightly more bearable.


September 27, 2010

It’s bittersweet to see Carly Mensch debut her finest play so far just as she heads to Los Angeles to write for "Weeds." "Now Circa Then," Mensch’s sweet-spirited two-hander, stars Stephen Plunkett and Maureen Sebastian as historical reenactors at a venue a lot like the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, realized by designer Lauren Helpern in a great-looking period set that allows the actors plenty of space to play in (it also barely fits into tiny venue Ars Nova, to the dismay of aud members seated to the set’s extreme left). Both characters, as you might imagine, are also living in the past in less literal ways.

Theatre Is Easy


September 26, 2010

BOTTOM LINE: A fun show about museum reenactors whose off-stage world bleeds into their on-stage life. Now Circa Then is a surprisingly fresh show. The story involves two museum reeneactors who work in a tenement museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Gideon and Margie play Julian and Josephine, a couple from the 1890s who live in a tenement apartment. Gideon is the seasoned professional to Margie’s "green" performance. Right off the bat, the audience sees that Margie isn’t 100% comfortable in her role as Josephine. Real-life actor Maureen Sebastian plays the awkwardness of this situation brilliantly. In fact, both actors play their roles quite well.


September 28, 2010

A twisty, humorous tale of significance, Carly Mensch’s new play, Now Circa Then, at Ars Nova under Jason Eagan’s direction, is a personal, meaningful, and well-crafted production — one especially well-suited to the theater’s intimate space.