Review: Aurora’s “Be Here Now” is enlightening!

by Jody Key — Managing Editor

Often times when we go to the theatre, it’s to see a lighthearted musical and escape our troubles. Yet we tune into shows such as “This is Us” on television to see humanity as it is; raw, and messy, and frightening, and beautiful. I often think to myself, why aren’t there more modern-day choices for theatrical productions that tell everyday stories to touch our heartstrings? If you’re feeling the same way, you’ll be happy to know the Aurora Theatre has an offering of plays this season that explore humanity in all it’s messy, frightening, and beautiful glory.

Be Here Now by Deborah Zoe Laufer opened this weekend, and runs until October 21st on Aurora’s mainstage. This is the story of Bari, a cynical PhD candidate who can’t seem to finish her dissertation on nihilism. When she begins to have terrible headaches and fainting spells that strangely also enable her to see the beauty and joy of life, she begins to look at life with renewed possibility. Her friends, Patty and Luanne, guide her through her ups and downs. She also begins a relationship with Mike, who makes art out of garbage. Be Here Now is a story of life, hope, possibilities, and finding your joy. This unusual comedy takes a look at life at a turning point and dares us to look inside ourselves and see what makes life beautiful.

Before we began this journey, our Curtain Speech host encouraged us to turn to a neighbor in the audience and tell them what brings us joy. I told my new friend that coming to the theater brings me joy. Whether it be as a patron, director, or tech, the theater is my happy place.

Director Rachel Parish’s vision for the show culminated in set that is simple yet versatile. Two large shelves that fly in horizontally from stage left and right serve as Bari’s workplace, the local fulfillment center, where she prepares statues of Buddha and “authentic Tibetan gifts” (which are actually made in China), to send out to those seeking spiritual tchotchkes for their homes. A convertible set piece center stage works for 4 different scenes, and a rainstorm is cleverly simulated in the rafters for one of the scenes at Mike’s cabin.

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For Stranger Things fans, seeing Cynthia Barrett, in the role of Bari will be a treat. Barrett played Marsha Holland (aka Barb’s mom) in Stranger Things. In her Aurora debut, Barrett is the perfect actress for this role, and brings a simple believability to this complex character. We are blessed to have her in the ATL area.

If you cherished Travis Smith’s hilarious performance as Bill in Mamma Mia at the Aurora, you’ll also adore him as Mike. This character is genuine and appears to live a simple life; however, he’s the prime example of not judging a book by its cover. Mike’s simplicity is a result of the hardships he’s endured. He becomes tangled up in a relationship with Bari, and is there for her when her headaches become life-threatening.

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Jocelyn Reyes and Falashay Pearson also turn in impressive performances. Reyes as Bari’s childhood friend and employer, Patty and Pearson as Patty’s niece, Luanne. These ladies round out a stellar cast.

So turn off the TV, come to the Aurora, see life three-dimensionally, and find your joy.  Get your tickets at https://www.auroratheatre.com/.

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