Political candidate John (Eddie Yaroch) watches election returns with growing glee: it appears he is the new American President-elect.
In another hotel room, son John, Jr. (J. Tyler Jones) is also watching the returns when friend Matt (Joshua Jones), noodling around on his cellphone, comes upon photos of himself and John at a college “naked” party – dressed as Muhammad and fundamentalist Pastor Bob.
The intent was comical: to “invade” and tell partiers they’re all going to Hell.
But you know what they say about best laid plans -- not to mention the penalties for truly stupid behavior (a vulgar video featuring John’s male member is also discovered).
Before the word “why?” can even be uttered, Marc (Matt Thompson) from dad’s campaign team storms in, damage control mode blazing, asking John to issue an apology. John refuses on freedom of speech grounds, leading to a family/political crisis.
And just like that, playwright Christopher Shinn’s 70-minute “Now Or Later” gives us three big topics to consider: freedom of speech, disrespect to Muslims and politically embarrassing children.
“Now Or Later” plays through March 13 at Diversionary Theatre, helmed by Diversionary’s artistic director Matt M. Morrow.
Dad sends in the other campaign troops – mom Jessica (Lisel Gorell Getz) and Tracy (Whitney Brianna Thomas) – but John still refuses. Must the son give up his rights to protect his father’s career?
We also learn that John has had psychiatric care, and is feeling sorry for himself because he’s broken up with boyfriend Robbie, who suddenly decided he no longer wants an exclusive relationship.
Other topics are also mentioned and just as quickly dropped, such as gay marriage, health care and possible rioting in Pakistan.
This is a topical play – especially this year – and though it can’t compete in the crazy category with the show we’re getting from the current crop of candidates, it’ll keep you in your seat.
The cast is excellent, beginning with J. Tyler Jones, who does most of the heavy lifting here – asserting his civil rights (and offering other political opinions) at 90 miles an hour. He gets my award for fastest talker who is still intelligible.
Thompson is convincing as campaign staffer Marc and Yaroch suitably starchy as the new President. Joshua Jones is fine as John’s buddy Matt.
The problem is that there’s enough fodder here for at least two acts. I’m not one to advocate for long plays, but this gang seems in a terrible hurry to get through this 70-minute exercise. I was exhausted by the end, but not really satisfied.
Perhaps they could slow it down a bit and let the ideas (and the audience) breathe.
“Now Or Later” plays through March 13, 2016 at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Boulevard.
Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm
Tickets: (619) 220-0097 or www.diversionary.org