nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
October 28, 2008
Josh Jonas's solo play Capture Now tells an earnest, sweet, heart-tugging story of a young man whose little brother dies of cancer at the age of six. It takes its title from a question that Ace, the younger brother, asks Elijah (about 12 years his senior): "How do you capture now?" The main theme of the piece lives right inside this question—that time is precious, that we must take time to cherish who/what we love/matters to us. I like this theme a lot.
And Jonas's presentation, under the skillful, careful hand of very experienced solo-show director Larry Moss, is commendable. Jonas is a good actor, creating recognizable portraits of his cast of characters with deft minimalism (no props or costume changes required). He's also a good writer, drawing us into his story quickly and easily, and raising the emotional stakes gradually while balancing plenty of humor.
So, given all of this, why did Capture Now fail to capture me?
Maybe it's the been-there/done-that nature of the enterprise: the confessional one-man show is so ubiquitous these days, and the loss-of-a-child theme has been pretty well-represented on stages lately as well. Jonas tells his story well, but I'm not really sure what he has to contribute to either genre that's new or interesting.
There's also a patness to the proceedings that's a little bit disturbing. Most of Jonas's characters feel like predictable archetypes: the cute (but not cloying), preternaturally wise little kid; the sassy Puerto Rican girlfriend; the wizened Selma Diamond-like diner waitress, a cigarette perpetually dangling from her lips; the flamboyantly gay best friend at musical theatre class; the good-looking but airheaded hunk who is the most popular guy in high school. Jonas writes and acts all of these people with a kind of shorthand that telegraphs them to us instantly without giving any of them depth or, let's face it, verisimilitude. (For example, when he plays the Puerto Rican girlfriend, his open palm hovers just over his heart—standard posture for a guy playing a girl on stage, I'm afraid.)
I think the key to the cliched nature of Capture Now lies in the fact that, unlike most if not all of the confessional one-man shows that it resembles, this one is not autobiographical. Careful perusal of the show's website reveals that this is not Jonas's own story. I wondered why he decided to give this work of fiction a form that is so closely associated with autobiography.
Note that none of my objections diminishes the fine work Jonas has done here—he's a talented writer and actor, certainly one to keep an eye on. But the distance between Jonas and his subject is palpable enough for us to feel it in the audience; I know I did.
I would be remiss not to point out that The Green Room, where Capture Now is being performed on a bare stage with a single black stool on it (and a single "Exit" sign hanging from the ceiling), was a FringeNYC venue this past summer. I'm a little shocked by the $76.50 ticket price for "premium seats" in this very modest basement venue.