NOW. HEAR. THIS. Music and Lyrics by Jeff Bowen: Book by Hunter Bell and Susan Blackwell: Based on a collaboration by Hunter Bell, Michael Berresse, Susan Blackwell, Heidi Blickenstaff, Jeff Bowen, and Larry Pressgrove. The show runs 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. Vineyard Theatre, Off-Broadway - 28 March - 28th April, 2012 (season - 36 perfs) SYNOPSIS NOW. HERE. THIS. marked the return to The Vineyard of the ultratalented team behind the Obie Award-winning musical [title of show] which premiered at The Vineyard in 2006, and went on to an acclaimed, Tony-nominated Broadway run in 2008. The six original collaborators are all delving into life's big questions with inimitable humor and humanity. The show explores birds, bees, reptiles, early man, ancient civilizations and outer space. Also, loneliness, friendship, hoarding, hiding, laughing, living and dying. And middle school. And dinosaurs. Story Thomas Merton, a poet and Catholic philosopher, developed a strong appreciation for Zen near the end of his short life. He told a friend about his key to happiness: the phrase "Now, Here, This." Not a command to "listen to this," but three distinct words as reminders: Now: this exact moment in time, NOT the past not future plans, but this tangible experience. Here: (NOT hear) This place in space, not where we might go or where we've been or where we want to be, but the place you actually are. This: the thing we're doing, the senses we're using, not imagination but reality. Now Here This - a way to live that will let us experience and truly appreciate life (while we have it.) That philosophy comes across as a musical group-therapy session, moving from angst-ridden memories and quirky stories about personal insecurities towards a new-ageish acceptance of the choices made, experiencing and embracing the present. It's certainly cheaper than group therapy, and probably funnier. The four characters essentially play themselves searching out this meaning-of-life thing. They are friends reflecting on their individual histories. nht-acMaybe it's because we know these four people - not personally, but we feel we have met them in. They have the personalities and quirky sense of humor of the real Jeff, Hunter, Heidi and Susan. They are meant to be any of the millions of slightly off-kilter creative types, the kind of people who have busy minds, fragments of ideas floating all the time, imagining what-ifs. There are a lot of us out here A theme in the show - and in life - is the desire for STUFF. A belief that getting that thing you desire will unlock the key to happiness. In the all-too-true number "Members Only." the title refers both to exclusive clubs AND a popular 1980s jacket brand. It acknowledges the teenage rite of passage of finding the RIGHT clothing to get accepted by the popular people. It's amusing while being painfully real. "Then Comes You" is a sweet song of friendship, and the truism that when you accept yourself, it's easier for others to accept you as well.