Josh Jonas knows what many people think when they hear his new play, Capture Now
(which just opened at the Theatres at 45 Bleecker), is a solo effort.
"People probably think, 'Oh, Jesus, not another one-person show! why doesn't the guy just get therapy already?' " Jonas jokes.
But seriously, he says, "I worked hard to really make it a play." It doesn't hurt that he worked with director/acting coach Larry Moss, who has developed a reputation as an expert shaper of solo shows (The Syringa Tree
, The Runt of the Litter
). Jonas also thinks there's a reason why the solo format works for his play, about the relationship between a Long Island teen, Elijah, and his irrepressible six-year-old little brother, Ace.
"In the time period we're talking about, junior high to high school—it's scary but self-centered time, and you kind of thought your life was a one-person show," Jonas says. "You think, 'I asked this girl out and she said no—my life is over!' All these other people are peripheral; there was never any understanding that there is something outside of you."
Though the play's story involves a cancer-ridden child—and Kleenex is provided to theatregoers on the way out—the story is told with plenty of humor, vigor and music. Yes, music; the setting is, after all, high school, when musical taste can be a more significant marker than class or race.
"Music is like a character in the show," Jonas says. "It's used in terms of the bonding between the two brothers, and in the way certain people are described by the kinds of music they like."
Though Jonas completed the play before Moss came on as director, the sage helmer's advice helped shape the play in important ways.
"The big thing that he said to me is, 'This play is about joy; it's about celebration.' That changed everything for me, and I realized I'd been doing a lot of things wrong."
Jonas realized, as Moss put, "Joy is more profound than sadness." Maybe because their juxtaposition is inevitably poignant: "In life, when things are tragic, we are trying to fight through that and find places to celebrate our everyday existence. Now I understand why, when Chekhov would give his plays to the Moscow Art Theatre, he'd write on the top of them, 'A comedy.' "
Another way to look at Capture Now
, Jonas says, is that it's a "play about firsts. It starts out with lighthearted first: The first time you see a girl and you're into her, and then your first kiss and your first relationship." And then come the heavier milestones: "The first time you have to deal with pain and illness and death, and the fact that maybe this person isn't going to be around forever."
In channeling the characters of Elijah and Ace and their Puerto Rican friend Jessica, Jonas gets a chance to show off his acting chops, no doubt. But he's come to realize that his most important scene partner isn't listed in the program.
"There's something special that happens when a one-person show works—the audience gets an experience that you don't get otherwise," Jonas says. "In a multi-character play, you're watching two people go after what they want from each other. But with a one-person show, when it works, the audience gets to go through something emotional themselves.
"The audience is very much a character in the play. If the audience isn't there, I have no one to connect to."
Click here for more information about Capture Now.