If you are a fan of The Beatles, you might not be faulted for thinking that there is no new territory to tread when it comes to an examination of the Fab Four but the second act of what could one day be a three-act play should change your mind. Written by Trevor Boelter and Directed by Matt Duggan, And Now It’s All This! centers on the moment when John (played here by David Foy Bauer) inadvertently ignited a ferocious debate with one statement: ’The Beatles are bigger than Jesus’. He made the statement mid-informal-interview with a friend, journalist Maureen Cleave (Stephanie Greer), and if you leave the quote in context, there’s little to argue with about his point. He seems to have just been saying that the youth of his day was not united by the Church of England, but instead by the music of The Beatles [and though we could add ‘and the like’ to that, it seems more accurate to assume that the John Lennon of the mid-60s would have been hard-pressed to include any other band in that statement].
In the Author’s note, Boelter explains that his interest lies in understanding John as a young man, especially when you contrast his ‘sarcastic, egotistical, hilarious and oblivious’ character with his older, peace-loving persona. The fascinating thing about this moment in John’s timeline is that this kind of incident could just as easily happen to an artist of his same standing today – in fact, it seems to occur on a near-daily basis. It falls to Brian Epstein (Spencer Cantrell) to handle the fallout, with phones that never cease to ring and promoters across the United States threatening to cancel upcoming tour dates. He argues with unseen adversaries, struggling to illustrate how easy it is for something that is said to be misconstrued or taken out of context.
He doesn’t just have the outrage to contend with, however, for the play makes great use of audio from news broadcasts to remind us of the greater context in the United States at the time, including the shootings at the University of Texas in Austin by Charles Whitman and a story about accused serial killer Richard Speck. The States were on edge, and this wasn’t helping.
Brian tries to keep the severity of the situation away from John, who doesn’t see why this is such a big deal. Enter Reverend Nicodemus Deluxe (Trevor Boelter), a holy roller hell-bent on seeing Beatles records and other paraphernalia burned in a bonfire while he praises Elvis for being ‘one of the good ones’. His rallying cry to take down John Lennon is intercut with Brian Epstein’s struggle to smooth this one over but it is the Reverend whose voice echoes as he asks repeatedly “Who died for you, John Lennon?” then answers with the obvious.
Brian gathers the press to listen to John’s apology but Lennon resists following through until Brian admits that they have been getting death threats. John agrees to apologize against his will. The cast is strong. As Brian Epstein, Spencer Cantrell captures the man’s poise and posture and frankly ends up humanizing the relationship between this legendary manager and the four young men he launched into fame – John Lennon, in particular.
Stephanie Greer shows that Maureen Cleave was more than an intellectual match for Lennon as she enjoys an intimate moment with him yet never lets her focus stray from the story she’s determined to write. She doesn’t come off as devious or destructive. She doesn’t lead him into the quote, she makes use of it and does her job well. Writer Trevor Boelter is a convincing evangelical preacher who manages to take a couple of digs at his own character without too much of a nudge and wink.
Like John Lennon, David Foy Bauer is wonderful. He not only seems to be able to channel the energy of the man, but he also brings the man to life via the temp and timber of his voice and this ultimately makes it really uncomfortable to have to watch him compromise. We don’t want to see him like this – we are just as certain as he is that this must be a mistake. In his apology, John stated, “We meant more to kids than Jesus did or religion, at that time. I wasn’t knocking it or putting it down, I was just saying it. You know, I just said what I said, and it was wrong or was taken wrong, and now it’s all this!.” The ‘all this’ carries a lot more weight today than it did then for it now feels as though things are constantly being taken out of context, often on purpose, and then spun around to mean something much bigger or darker or insulting than was originally intended. It would be fascinating to see where Mr. Boelter’s complete play takes us next.
Hair & Makeup by Cristina Waltz. Audio/Visual Effects and Dramaturgy by David Caprita. Social Media Manager/Photographer is Giovanna Sarnicola. Website Design by Sydney Walter. The Stage Manager is Jim Niedzialkowski. Produced by David Caprita, Matt Duggan & Trevor Boelter. Executive Producer is ManvsFilms. http://manvsfilms.com/
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.