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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Theatre review: Now Or Later is timely

Playwright packs too much into this look at political manipulation

It certainly is timely. As the election battle to the south comes to a close in mere days, Fighting Chance Productions presents Christopher Shinn’s political drama, Now Or Later.

On the night of the presidential election, Now Or Later chronicles the potentially explosive revelation that photos of the President-elect’s son, John, have surfaced of him wearing a costume of the Prophet Mohammed at a university “naked party”. John has also recently penned an editorial taking to task Muslim students attempting to change the university’s freedom of speech policy. When his father’s handlers are unable to convince him to issue an apology, dad shows up to do the convincing himself.

Told in real-time, Shinn packs a lot more than the political manipulation of his son into this relatively brisk 70 minutes. Along with the political fall-out from the photos and editorial, we discover the son is gay, has just broken up with his boyfriend, and has undergone intensive therapy over an attempted suicide. Shinn also throws in a cursory discussion of gay marriage. It is a lot of ground to cover inside single act. The result? Nothing gets the attention it deserves.

There is a lot riding on the shoulders of Jake Sheardown, who plays John. With Sheardown’s largely declamatory delivery, his opinions come fast-and-furious with very little emotional depth. It makes it all but impossible to find a connection. We should feel sorry for the guy, but we don’t. Even when Sheardown does find a couple nuggets of emotional truth on the periphery of the central political story, Shinn gives him little time to actually explore them.

There is some fine work from others in this production though, with Justin Anthony and Nicole G Leier managing to find the passion in the political as John’s friends. Brian Hinson finds a perfect balance between his duties as a father and leader of the free world, while Paula Spurr and Winson Won do nice work in their supporting roles.

Director Ryan Mooney has a tough time on Alison Walker’s tiny platform set. Long walks to a stage door feel awkward, and pushing his actors into the aisle downstage right to make a point was overused.

Post-show discussion centered on the prevailing cynicism around manipulation in politics. In Now Or Later though, that primary discussion never quite gets the attention it deserves, especially as it relates to family.

Now Or Later by Christopher Shinn. Directed by Ryan Mooney. A Fighting Chance Productions presentation on stage at the PAL Studio Theatre (581 Cardero St, Vancouver) until November 13. Visit for tickets and information.

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