Be Here Now reaches for profundity, but falls short | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Be Here Now reaches for profundity, but falls short

Deborah Zoe Laufer's existential comedy has charm, but not much staying power.



For those of us who roll eyes at the accoutrements of Big Woo, Bari in Deborah Zoe Laufer's Be Here Now might be our antispiritual guide. From the opening scene, where she silently resists the soothing instructions of a yogi, we know she's a tough nut. And who can blame her? She's on the verge of failing to finish her dissertation on nihilism, she's stuck in a small town where the only job she can get is at a "fulfillment center," packaging cheap made-in-China Buddhas (with the tags ripped off so the bosses can pretend to be selling Tibetan goods), and she can't find a buyer for her dead parents' house because . . . well, small town, no prospects.

But two things happen to throw Bari (Rebecca Jordan) out of her "smug gloom," as her coworker, Patty (Deanna Reed-Foster), aptly characterizes it. First, she meets Patty's quirky cousin, Mike (Joe Wiens), a sort of Manic Pixie Dream Boy with dark secrets. Then she starts having seizures that leave her aglow with positive thoughts (and horny as hell). Should she seek treatment for the tumor causing the seizures (which will kill her if not removed), even if it means returning to her joyless past?

Laufer's play, directed with a sure hand by Sandy Shinner for Shattered Globe, tries too hard to land its rather obvious points about making the best of life, no matter what. (Mike has achieved notoriety for his gift at literally building houses out of trash, for example.) The cast, especially Wiens, commit to the sometimes twee material with intelligence and empathy, even though the characters end up feeling more like archetypes than fully fleshed-out people. It's enjoyable, but not memorable or deep.  v

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