Hindi Greenberg: ‘Ordinary Days’ is extraordinary
“Ordinary Days” is a sweet, funny, humane musical play, excellently presented and performed by Sierra Stages. It is a “sung through” musical, with all words and character development rendered in song.
The piece was originally presented by the company as a reading in 2015, and now, utilizing the same director and cast, they have expanded that earlier well-done presentation to include all accoutrements of a fully staged play, including sets, props, costumes and lighting.
This is a refreshingly amusing and honest musical — with lively music and unclichéd lyrics by Adam Gwon — about the difficultly in creating and building authentic relationships in a big and impersonal city, this one being New York.
Since Gwon has the skill to avoid forced rhymes, there are 19 songs with fairly precise, expressive and funny lyrics. And fortunately, all four vocalists enunciate distinctly, so each sung comment and aside is clearly projected.
The action is divided among two men and two women, each expressing longings and worries about reaching yet unknown or even unattainable goals, and searching for fulfillment, happiness and love.
This play is atypical in that the two men are the romantics, more kind and open to experience, while the two women are, at least early on, somewhat gloomy, curt and socially clumsy.
Almost all songs are sung by an individual facing the audience, for us to listen to their problems, with only a few duos, trios or quartets — underscoring the difficulty of communicating directly with another individual.
The almost annoyingly optimistic but starving artist Warren (Jay Barker) picks up discarded items to fantasize about, and sees beauty in the simple things in life.
At times acerbic, Deb (Nancy Haffey) is a college student working on her thesis; when she leaves her research book on a bench, Warren finds it and this leads to a meeting arranged at a museum.
The couple, moving in together and trying to merge their lives and belongings, is patient Jason and Claire (Jonathan Hansard and Kim Wellman). But Claire is finding it difficult to commit to Jason due to something in her past.
Sandra Rockman directs this musical, as she did the 2015 play reading, fully fleshing it out and giving it a lovely choreographed, balletic flow.
All four actors — Barker, Haffey, Hansard and Wellman — wonderfully emote, move, and sing (and the music, while tuneful, is not easy) to the excellent on-stage piano accompaniment of Musical Director Ken Getz. Each actor has more than one amazing acting turn and great song.
The simple but functional set — a New York skyline with projected images and props used to simulate other locales — is creatively designed by Constance Ammon and uses the limited space of the Off Center Stage to create an intimacy perfectly suited to this engaging and gentle show.
Sound design by Peter A. Mason and lighting design by Hunter Schott contribute to the ambiance of the Big Apple.
Another “be sure to see it” Sierra Stages show, “Ordinary Days” isn’t ordinary — it is a delightful theater experience. The music continues through Oct. 28 at the Off Center Stage.
Hindi Greenberg enjoys quirky characters illuminated in writings, being one herself. She’s probably most like Warren, seeing beauty in simple things like nature, color and fine acting and writing.
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