Review: “Now or Later” at the Square One Theatre Company

Tara Kennedy

  • Connecticut Critic

Square One Theatre Company really had its finger on the pulse of American consciousness when it chose to produce Christopher Shinn’s work, “Now or Later.” A Connecticut-born-and-bred playwright, Christopher Shinn’s play is partially about how the President-elect’s son’s seeming carelessness at a college party can upset an entire campaign. It certainly parallels events we’ve seen in the current election, albeit actions by the candidates themselves rather than their offspring. Beyond its analysis of the First Amendment and free speech, this important work is also the story of the tumultuous, tenuous relationship between father and son. It is a political junkie’s drama and in this election season, it is the perfect choice to open Square One Theatre’s 27th season.

Let me start off by saying that I *really* like this play. It is smart, effective writing, and extremely cerebral. I do like my drama that way, and Shinn does not disappoint. What is great about this show is that no one is right or wrong: you could understand their points of view yet also see the flaws in their reasoning. Shinn’s characters are genuine and relatable, and neatly packed into a 75-minute time frame: that, my friends, is what separates good from great writing. It’s no wonder Shinn has an impressive list of nominations, including being on the short list for the Pulitzer Prize from Drama for his work, “Dying City.” 

Director Tom Holehan is masterful at creating energy and dynamism in a very small space (all action takes place in a hotel room). After seeing some disappointing direction in a recent professional production, it is a joy to see direction that is purposeful and vibrant, despite the limited space. 

There are some great performances in this stimulating drama. Christopher Finch plays John, the President-elect’s son whose impassioned need to call out hypocrisy in his college classmates gets his father in political hot water. It is evident from his performance that Finch has the crux of the character, despite some opening-night jitters. I believe his performance will only improve as the run continues.  Patrick Kelly as John’s friend and partner-in-crime, Matt, seemed less comfortable with the material than Finch, which made their scenes together somewhat lumbering and off-pace.

Pat Leo portrays the perfectly polished political animal as John’s absentee father -  until his son cracks his political veneer. I really enjoyed Peggy Nelson as Jessica, John’s mother; her natural delivery and presence was excellent and a perfect fit for the character. Jennifer Ju was energetic and bright as political guru, Tracy, and Joseph Maker’s portrayal of Marc was on-point as another of John, Sr’s staffers. 

Square One Theatre Company’s timing for this piece could not be better. “Now or Later” is an important work that’s intelligent and thought-provoking: so much so that the audience was lost in thought and delayed their applause at the show’s end. As the Boston Glove rightly pointed out, “…[the show is] over too soon!” “Now or Later” runs through Nov. 20th at Stratford Academy, 719 Birdseye Street in Stratford.