Review: Now Now Oh Now by the Rude Mechs
by Michael Meigs

The Rude Mechs are looking for exactly thirty spectactor-participants to fill the seats at each performance in Now Now Oh Now. Or perhaps I should say at each experience of the work, for they carefully structure it to make those numerological thirty transit with them through the varieties of theatrical experience.


Dress warmly, friends, for you'll wait in the yard outside the Off Center until summoned. The Rudes now promise to have a fire, which will accelerate audience cohesion on these December nights. 


You're invited to choose a thumb-sized ceramic token as you check in. Each is marked with one of the six distinctive signs, so that you self-assign into an unknown tribe. Keep that in your pocket or in hand. Master of Games Robert Fisher will appear and banter, jollying you along as he leads you to the Off Shoot, the Rudes' rehearsal studio, where you're offered your choice of the 30 chairs arranged there in a wide circle. You don't notice it at first, but the magic circle is further defined and closed by a line of random socks.


Robert S. Fisher (photo: Jeremy M. Lange)


I missed Now Now Oh Now when they inaugurated the piece in Austin in mid-2012, so I didn't know what to expect. What I found was a thoughtful, clever triptych that lightly examined play (that is, live representational art), play (as in homo ludens), participation, a lightly disguised exposition of the aesthetic that brought the Mechs together, and a subtle admonition about the precious and irretrievable nature of the present moment -- now, now, oh now, for this present moment is all we know and experience. 


Note: modest SPOILERS below (not total give-aways).




Lana Lesley, Hannah Kenah, Robert S. Fisher, Thomas Graves (photo by Jeremy M. Lange) 

The Rudes took this experience to Yale, to Philadelphia and to Miami, and now they've repatriated it, so to speak, to their Austin origins. The faces of the cast are familiar, although perhaps their cosplay fantasy in the opening section may at first confuse: along with Fisher are Thomas Graves, Joey Hood, Hannah Kenah, Shawn Sides and Lana Lesley.


As in all Rude Mech undertakings, it's a collaborative work. With Sides' staging, Kenah's text and design participation by a long list of co-conspirators, the performers create a quirky back story for you in the opening phase, subject to Fisher's proclaimed rules ("All deaths in this world are permanent!"). He then summons forth the random six tribes of the audience designated by the tokens and assigns each knot of mostly strangers puzzles to solve. The results are assembled on the way to deciphering a rebus invented by Graves.


Lana Lesie (via Austin Statesman)


Your collective success will lead you onward to a long banquet table starkly set with significant objects, for a lecture by Lesley ranging from bird calls to imaginary worlds to contemplation of the appropriate interpretation of 'survival of the fittest.'


(photo: Jeremy M. Lange)


It's entertaining, thought-provoking and a touch disturbing, particularly at a crucial moment when you're reminded of the random strikes of chance. And it's amusing, particularly when the lecturer uses lighted dioramas to illustrate her points and complete the unfinished story of your earlier experience within the magic circle of chairs and socks.


Now Now Oh Now is a bracing 70 minutes of play that's deeply serious. Just like the Mechs themselves.



Click to view the Rude Mechs' program for Now Now Oh Now.






Now Now Oh Now
by Rude Mechs ensemble
Rude Mechs

December 05 - December 19, 2015
Off Center
2211-A Hidalgo Street
near Robert Martinez and E. 7th Street, behind Joe's Bakery
Austin, TX, 78702

NOW NOW OH NOW” is performed for an intimate audience of 30 people, so there will be multiple showings of the performance each night. The audience experience is roaming so we recommend that you wear comfortable shoes and consider leaving big purses and bags at home.

The performance lasts about one hour.

Tickets $25 general admission, $15 students plus $2 service charge,

Click to purchase on-line