Life as a yes-or-no proposition in Lyric Stage’s ‘Be Here Now’ – The Boston Globe

Posted: October 5, 2021 at 4:24 am

Asked what her dissertation is about, Bari answers: Its about how nothing matters. Not even love? Whatever you choose, sooner or later it will end in grief. All righty then!

However, when Bari begins to experience severe headaches, followed by seizures, the world suddenly takes on a cheerier aspect, especially after Mike (Barlow Adamson), who makes art out of garbage, enters the picture. Bari eventually has to make a very big decision. Essentially, she has to decide whether to say yes or no to life, but in her case theres nothing simple about the definition of life.

The problem is that before arriving at that crossroads, Be Here Now spins its wheels far too long for a one-act play that runs a bit under 90 minutes.

As demonstrated in her Out of Sterno (presented at Gloucester Stage Company in 2015) and The Last Schwartz (at Gloucester Stage in 2016), playwright Laufer has a fondness for eccentrics. But in Be Here Now she overestimates the charm of three of her four characters.

The scene that follows the yoga session drags, partly because Laufer lets it run on almost to the point of tedium, and partly because neither Richert nor director Courtney OConnor has quite figured out how to make Baris unremitting gloom and misanthropy dramatically compelling.

The upshot is that the rest of Be Here Now is a matter of climbing out of that dramaturgical hole. It more or less manages to do so, thanks to a quickening of the plays central dilemma and a jolt of adrenaline delivered by Adamson as the seemingly laid-back, more-than-meets-the-eye Mike. As usual with this consummate pro, Adamson gives the role exactly what it needs: no more, no less.

Speaking of reliable pros: Scenic designer Janie E. Howland, whose aesthetic discernment has enriched numerous Lyric Stage productions, has created a streamlined, Bauhaus-tinged set consisting of a geometric array of moveable benches and shelving and chairs, some of which seem to be floating in space. Howlands design artfully suggests Baris disengagement from a world she sees largely in abstract terms.

While working on her thesis, Bari is working at a fulfillment center in a small town in upstate New York, wrapping and shipping ceramic objects ostensibly from the Himalayas, actually made in China. Her coworkers are gruff but kind-hearted Patty (Shani Farrell), who is middle-aged, like Bari, and a big believer in astrology as a guide to compatibility, and Pattys ingenuous 20-year-old niece, Luanne (Katherine C. Shaver), whos drawn into sexting with a new boyfriend.

Class tensions lurk around the edges. The nihilism of Bari, who presumably will be back in the comfortable precincts of academia ere long, seems awfully self-indulgent when compared with the uncertainty faced by her blue-collar colleagues, especially when Bari gloomily predicts: Were all going to be replaced by robots. But those tensions are not fruitfully explored.

Things start to pick up when Mike, who only travels by bicycle, and Bari go on a blind date. When Bari tells him that she teaches nihilism, Mike asks: Isnt that a teenage thing?

At first it seems like nothing more than a smart-aleck remark aimed at puncturing Baris pretensions. But she will soon learn that Mike has significant intellectual credentials of his own and a tragic past. Glib posturing when it comes to life and its meaning is something he cant afford.

BE HERE NOW

Play by Deborah Zoe Laufer. Directed by Courtney OConnor. Presented by Lyric Stage Company of Boston. Through Oct. 17. Tickets $25-$75. 617-585-5678, http://www.lyricstage.com

Don Aucoin can be reached at donald.aucoin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeAucoin.

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Life as a yes-or-no proposition in Lyric Stage's 'Be Here Now' - The Boston Globe

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