written and performed by
A neon OPEN sign flickers on. Elijah, played by Josh Jonas, the writer of and sole performer in Capture Now, is standing underneath it, trying – really trying – to convey a sense of wistfulness.
He stares across the empty stage, eyes directed upward, a melancholy smile chiseled into his face. “Did you know that during his entire lifetime, Vincent van Gogh sold only one painting? Do you know who he sold it to? His brother.” Elijah says he likes that quote not because of what it might demonstrate about the archetypal unappreciated artist but for some other, for now unspoken, reason. He suggests we keep it in mind.
And then we are transported to Elijahs seventh-grade English class, where his new-age teacher is meditating on her desk, and Sam Clifford light of Elijahs life, fire of his awkward, pubescent loins is ignoring our timid protagonist, per usual.
The class is reading Romeo and Juliet. As much as he feels he shouldnt like it, that its uncool to like assigned reading, Elijah is enjoying the play, though hes bothered by the Prologue. ‘The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,’ what a dead giveaway! The teacher asks her students to write a paper detailing what they would die for as Romeo and Juliet died for one another. The best answer Elijah can offer is Sam Clifford, but, he says, if hes dead, then what good would she be to him? There is nothing in his life worth dying for, not then anyway, but he assures us there will be: his brother is on the way.
At the time of this episode, Elijahs mother is in her third trimester, and the family is still quibbling over the babys name. Just as in the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet, here Elijah tells us that his unborn brother wont make it to the end of the play.
Elijah is determined to make his little brother cool, and to set him down the path early, he proposes the name Ace. His parents dislike it, disown it, but cannot themselves dream up anything better than Shlomo, and so, Ace wins out by default. Ace is born, and then suddenly hes three-years-old, listening to Sonic Youth and Led Zeppelin with Elijah, who takes it upon himself to give his brother lessons in music appreciation.
Ace is scared by Sonic Youth and takes instead to a feel-good, soft-rock album Elijah had been using to prop open his bedroom window. But thats fine with Elijah: hes smitten with his brother anyway. After a long night of rocking out to sensitive rock ballads, its Aces bedtime, so Elijah sweeps him up to his room. Before he falls asleep, Ace asks, How do you capture now? Elijah doesnt understand the question and laments playing his brother so much Dylan.
Ace tries to explain but only confounds his brother further. As Elijah stumbles through an answer, Ace falls asleep. This question, like the Vincent van Gogh anecdote, hang over and inform the rest of the performance.
Over the ensuing hour and twenty minutes, Ace proves himself to be, if not a precocious saint, at least a nice, sharp kid, and Elijah is revealed as a loving brother and an awkward lover. The brothers are inseparable until Ace contracts cancer, and Elijah begins avoiding him too disturbed to even look at him spending his time instead with the born-again-Christian, punk-loving, Puerto-Rican girlfriend Ace helped him land.
A predictable but satisfactory reconciliation occurs; predictable but earnest epiphanies follow.
That, in a nutshell, sums up Jonas performance, and the piece: predictable but earnest. Jonas falls prey to a few classic trappings of solo performances. He over-emotes, exaggerating his facial features and physical reactions. Also, he cannot effectively differentiate his characters voices: his Puerto-Rican girlfriend is hardly an octave shy of his Bob-Fosse-wanna-be best friend. Most distractingly, Aces voice sounds cartoonish, mitigating the effect of his powerful lines.
Nevertheless, Jonas performance feels authentic, largely due to the stripped-down production. The play asks what is the nature of brotherhood and the substance of the moment. As amateurish as the performance feels at times, the absence of irony and dedication to honest soul searching is refreshing.