Human Race Theatre opens 35th season with ‘Now and Then’

(left to right) Libby Holley Scancarello, Scott Stoney, Maggie Lou Rader, and Justin McCombs appear in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Now and Then." CONTRIBUTED
Caption
(left to right) Libby Holley Scancarello, Scott Stoney, Maggie Lou Rader, and Justin McCombs appear in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Now and Then." CONTRIBUTED

Credit: ALEXANDER CAPENEKA

Credit: ALEXANDER CAPENEKA

Romantic dramedy reveals mysterious exploration of love, time and starting over

The local premiere of Chicago playwright Sean Grennan’s romantic dramedy “Now and Then,” a mysterious exploration of love, time and starting over, opens the Human Race Theatre Company’s 35th anniversary season April 28-May 9 exclusively on the streaming platform “Broadway On Demand.”

Set in 1981 at a neighborhood bar, the play concerns Jamie, who is closing up for the night when a desperate last-minute customer enters with an intriguing proposition. The guest offers Jamie and his girlfriend Abby $2,000 to simply sit and have a drink with him. Ultimately, a conversation about present dilemmas and future hopes as well as the arrival of a displeased second customer makes the unbelievable begin to look like it just might be true.

(left to right) Maggie Lou Rader, Scott Stoney and Justin McCombs appear in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Now and Then." CONTRIBUTED
Caption
(left to right) Maggie Lou Rader, Scott Stoney and Justin McCombs appear in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Now and Then." CONTRIBUTED

Credit: ALEXANDER CAPENEKA

Credit: ALEXANDER CAPENEKA

Grennan, who worked as a bartender in the 1980s while performing in the Chicago theater scene, says a desire to reflect on the past fueled his creative instincts. His play has been described as reflecting “the costs of the choices we make, and the people who make them with us.”

“To a certain extent, all of us have regrets,” said Grennan. “There are things that bother us. What if I had made different choices? What if I had gone down a different path? In essence, the word enouement, defined as wistful sadness at not being able to tell your younger self what you know now, is the inspiration for the whole play. (Also), the nature of the play (mirrors) a mystery so there are little clues along the way that will pay off later. I love mysteries, and on this occasion, I decided to try to (create) one.”

“I was charmed when I read this script,” added director Marya Spring Cordes, who staged “Gloria: A Life” for the Human Race last season, the last fully staged show the troupe presented pre-pandemic. “I have a husband of 20 years, so the history of a relationship woven from different perspectives was really intriguing and also made me feel there was something universal about love we can all tap into from the world in this script. Love of self, loathing of self, love of partner, loathing of partner. I was also drawn to the fact that the payoffs to the Agatha Christie (elements) were so strong in the end. Even though I didn’t know what the end would be, I knew I would have a great sense of satisfaction and wonder and I knew I would leave with questions, which is the deeper aspect of the play.”

Real-life spouses Justin McCombs and Maggie Lou Rader, who both have extensive acting credits with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, portray Jamie and Abby. Rader was notably seen as Ellen in the Human Race’s 2017 world premiere of “Family Ties.” The unexpected customers will be portrayed by Human Race resident artist and founding member Scott Stoney and local actress Libby Holley Scancarello.

Fifth character: Mudlick Tap House

The fifth character in the play, the bar, is represented by Mudlick Tap House, the downtown Dayton venue which served as the production’s shooting location. Shaunn Baker of WorldStage Media spearheaded the cinematic components as director of photography, editor and head of film production.

“I loved the (intimacy) of the script,” said Baker. “I want to see connection between people. We’re trying to make this play feel theatrical.”

“We’re interested in a theatrical production set in a naturalistic setting, but having the opportunity of film to see a little more deeply into psychology in moments,” added Cordes. “When there are close-ups, you’re really seeing what the (characters) are thinking as opposed to what they’re doing. And in theater it’s all about the do. So, (we’re) finding a nice, interesting hybrid of those things.”

“The play is basically naturalism so setting it in a natural setting may actually inform the piece, especially with close-ups,” echoed Grennan. “I’m tickled about the idea.”

The creative team includes production manager Jacquelyn Duncan, costumer Janet G. Powell, scenic elements and props by Alexander Capeneka, lighting designer John Rensel, and sound designer Jay Brunner.

Maggie Lou Rader (left) and Libby Holley Scancarello appear in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Now and Then." CONTRIBUTED
Caption
Maggie Lou Rader (left) and Libby Holley Scancarello appear in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Now and Then." CONTRIBUTED

Credit: ALEXANDER CAPEN

Credit: ALEXANDER CAPEN

Premiere coincides with troupe’s 35th birthday

In addition to “Now and Then” spanning 35 years, the play’s April 28 premiere fittingly coincides with the 35th birthday of the Human Race. Organizers are in a celebratory mood while mindful of the importance of staying flexible during these challenging, unpredictable times.

“April 28 kicks off our 35th year, which is a great way to transition out of this past year,” said Kevin Moore, Human Race artistic director and founding member. “Our plan is to bring back everything that we have previously planned plus some great celebratory events. The one thing we learned in the year since ‘Gloria’ opened is to be flexible to the nth degree.”

The Human Race’s 35th season continues with Lauren Gunderson’s irreverent period comedy “The Revolutionists” (June 23-July 4, 2021, streaming only on “Broadway on Demand”), Matthew Lombardo’s Tallulah Bankhead-centric comedy “Looped” (Aug. 5-22, 2021, live at the Loft Theatre), Chelsea Marcantel’s air guitar-themed comedy “Airness” (Oct. 21-Nov. 7, 2021, live at the Loft Theatre), and Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s family drama “Everything That’s Beautiful” (Feb. 17-March 6, 2022, live at the Loft Theatre). There will also be a special holiday add-on production of Matthew Lombardo’s racy Dr. Seuss-themed comedy “Who’s Holiday” (Dec. 2-19, 2021, live at the Loft Theatre). All titles and dates are subject to change.

For more information, visit humanracetheatre.org.

How to watch

What: “Now and Then”

When: Streaming April 28-May 9 on “Broadway on Demand”

Cost: $25 + $3.95 service charge

For tickets and to view: Visit livestream.broadwayondemand.com/human-race/

FYI: Current subscribers will receive an email with their personal link to watch the show

Contact this contributing writer at rflorence2@gmail.com.