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The subject matter of Never Is Now by Wendy Kout can almost not not work. Recounting in chronological order the lives of young people who survived the Holocaust nearly seven decades ago needs only basic competence to strike the heart. Such remains the nature of that atrocity--or, more accurately, that cascade of atrocities. Who cannot find themselves moved?
So in a way, the subject matter makes things easier. As does the format, reader's theatre, in which there's little overall story but an almost documentary-style presentation of events.
Make no mistake--it works. It works due to a simple fact--these real lives harrow us, just by the sharing. Such truths lash out, making audiences wince and often weep. I certainly did. Which remains the whole point. If we let ourselves feel, then the experience of such memories shared changes us.
So the basics are good. Given the subject matter, good means heart-piercing.
Likewise this "framing" delves into current events, with Eliza Blair for example noting how she has now become weary and afraid in the face of rampant, resurgent hatred. Like so many in the Reich, she feels a desire to wait out the troubles, hoping to survive. A bit more complex is Michael Kaczkowski as the only cast member who admits to voting for Trump, spewing sincere concerns that sound so utterly shallow--and Adam Foster Ballard calls him on it with his own story as one of those already targeted under Trump. But to be honest, this framing doesn't always work. Maybe it cannot, given how little time we are given to know the players (or the versions of the players the piece calls for).
The show ends with a simple coda, the faces of real survivors whose stories have been told. Faux writer Evie Abat and director Joey Millin spring this "change" on the cast, just as they feel exhausted not only from the play but their explored reactions to it. So it ends on a note of melancholy hope. Which again, is good. It moves us, as it should. As it must. As it will--and if it does not frankly that seems like a problem if it does not.
Never Is Now plays Fridays at 8:30pm, Saturdays at 4pm and 8:30pm, plus Sundays at 2pm until October 27, 2019 at the Skylight Theatre (north of Hollywood Blvd), 1816 1/2 North Vermont, Los Angeles CA 90027.