Thursday, October 18, 2018

Ordinary Days

You know that old writing rule, "Show, don't tell"? It makes a lot of sense, particularly in theatre, where we watch characters live their lives right in front of us. Of course, there's also "Rules are made to be broken," to which I would add, "but only if what you're doing is rises above the rules."

Kyle Sherman, Sarah Lynn Marion
Photo: Carol Rosegg

Ordinary Days, music and lyrics by Adam Gwon, does a tremendous amount of telling. It's a 99% sung-through musical, and the four characters spend a lot of time explaining themselves. 

Warren, in his 20s and new to New York, tells us "The city tends to make me feel invisible./Yes, of all the superpowers,/It’s the one I’d like to have,/But it isn’t very handy/When you’re trying to get noticed." Deb, also in her 20s and working on her thesis on Virginia Woolf, tells us that she never wants to be where she is. Jason, in his 30s, tells us that he wants to live with Claire, because "There were fourteen blocks between her place and mine." And Claire, trying to prune her belongings to make room for Jason, tells us that she can't because "you need this proof/Your past was real." As Ordinary Days goes on, there is more showing, but still a lot of telling. In fact, the 11:00 number is completely told. 

Marc delaCruz, Whitney Bashor
hoto: Carol Rosegg

And it all works really well. The songs are lovely and smart and sensitive, and  Gwon even makes the sung-through-ness succeed, as his work genuinely sounds like people communicating rather than wretched recitatif. Ordinary Days could be a song cycle on reaching out and on letting other people in, but Gwon provides enough in the way of scenes to tie together the four characters and give us a satisfying whole.

The four-person cast is wonderful: Sarah Lynn Marion, Kyle Sherman, Marc delaCruz, and Whitney Bashor. Director Jonathan Silverstein and musical director John Bell, well-supported by orchestrator Bruce Coughlin, take four actors and three musicians and provide a show that feels full and lacking nothing. The physical parts of the production all do their jobs beautifully: scenery by Steven Kemp, costumes by Jennifer Paar, lighting by Anshuman Bhatia, and sound by Alex Hawthorn, who uses miking subtly enough to make the singers feel unmiked.

This Keen Company production makes me miss the days when Off-Broadway was more hospitable to long or at least long-ish runs of musicals that were just right for the intimacy of smaller theatres. (I'm not counting Broadway musicals that have down-sized.) Ordinary Days deserves to be seen by many more people.

Wendy Caster
(press ticket, 5th row)
Show-Score: 85

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