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August 27, 2015
FringeNYC Review: For Now
Photo credit: Anne Stewart
Photo credit: Anne Stewart

Jeremy Stuart’s For Now is a play riddled with suggestions of sex.  The first thing we hear is moaning in the dark. Every conversation is post-coital or pre-coital, and there's the feeling that the two characters – simply named Man and Woman – could break into the act at any time. But for all of the undertones, sex itself is never discussed. Instead, all of the dialogue is about desperation, isolation and the universal experience of growing tired of another person.

The suggestion seems to be that behind every sexual encounter is a hidden motivation – though the characters might rebuke that interpretation.  Woman (Amy Scanlon) is a near shut-in who behaves like a cynic but claims to truly cherish the extremely rare sincere interaction that can occurs between two people. Man (Malcolm Nichols) is a self-styled brooding pseudo-intellectual who is openly having sex with a number of partners other than Woman.

The setup places Woman in what many would view as a victim’s role.  But the writing – and Scanlon’s self-assured performance – actually transform her aloneness into something resembling a position of strength.  Man, on the other hand, seems to be making it up as he goes; every line feel improvised, and not always convincingly.

One potential turn off can be found in the ceaseless snappiness of the dialogue.  The pace recalls the likes of Mamet, with characters regularly finishing each other's sentences at a rapid clip.  But here, this can make the two characters seem indistinguishable from each other – despite the clear differences in their perspectives.

For Now, presented at the New York International Fringe Festival, has some characteristics of a work in progress (or at least of a play by a playwright in progress).  But it's also full of ideas, most prominently the notion that ostensibly empty sex often hides a wish.  It may be an easy premise to disagree with, but For Now makes its case confidently.

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