Ordinary Days follows four, adrift young New Yorkers as they go about the city on various errands: Warren, who is cat-sitting for a famous artist incarcerated for graffiti, goes around the city on his own art project: giving out pithy slogans on colored paper. Deb, a grad student writing on Virginia Woolf – who she doesn’t even like – has lost her notebook with all of her research and is frantically trying to do something about it.
Jason is moving in with his girlfriend Claire which will save him the daily 14 block walk to her apartment, but she is unable to “let go of things” because she has an unresolved secret she hasn’t told Jason. In a city of eight million, these four people keep passing each other but almost never meet except when they are all at the Metropolitan Museum of Art one Saturday afternoon where Warren is to meet Deb to give back her notebook and Jason has taken Claire as an eleventh thing to do (his own suggestion) from a magazine list they have kept.
Gwon’s four characters, two in their twenties and two in their thirties, are very lightly drawn so it is up to the actor/singers to make them three dimensional as we are told nothing about them except that Deb is writing a dissertation and that Warren earns his living house-sitting. Unfortunately, Silverman’s cast makes them superficial and immature rather than deep or confused. Kyle Sherman’s cheerful Warren who has not found his “Big Picture” yet seems unnecessarily hopeful even though he has no direction. As Deb, Sarah Lynn Marion is one–note, cynical, pessimistic and choleric without any irony which would redeem her character. Jason seems to live only for Claire, while she seems to be on the verge of a breakdown or a breakup.
Gwon’s lyrics use a metric pattern all his own, with rhymes usually appearing only in the middle of the verses. Like Sondheim’s songs, Gwon’s create little solo one act plays so it is incumbent on the singers to present them like developing narratives. Under the music direction of John Bell and the stage direction by Silverstein, this the singers fail to do. The most famous song in the show “I’ll Be Here” (which has been a show stopper for Audra McDonald) is thrown away in this revival by Bashor who fails to build up to the necessary emotion. Some of the duets used as counterpoint are a little more successful such as: Deb’s “Dear Professor Thompson” and Warren’s “Life Story,” and Jason and Claire’s “Fine,” as well as “Big Picture” and “Rooftop Duet/Falling” sung by all four. DelaCruz sells “Hundred Story City,” which demonstrates Gwon’s heavily influenced by Sondheim but in his own unique way. Bruce Coughin’s dissonant new orchestrations get in the way of songs that cry out for a more melodic sound.
Steven Kemp’s bland settings are made up of platforms and blank canvas screens intended to represent New York’s skyscrapers. These walls are often lit by Anshuman Bhatia in various pairs of colors which should have added atmosphere but like the strips of lighting seen from behind the screens prove to be only distracting. There is one extraordinary scenic moment, however, when Warren and Deb hurling various colored papers from a rooftop, while Jason and Claire many floors below attempt to catch them, creates a riot of light and color. Unfortunately, nothing else in the show rivals this coup de théâtre. Jennifer Paar’s blah costumes do not define the characters very well except for putting Warren in primary colors – like the papers he gives out.
Although Ordinary Days wants us to believe that these are extraordinary people living through ordinary but memorable days, Jonathan Silverstein’s production for Keen Company fails to deliver on that premise. His cast sings well but this sophisticated sung-through musical needs more than just good voices. Unfortunately, this highly awaited revival of the charming Adam Gwon musical is low on the charm factor, a disappointment leaving us to wait for a definitive production sometime in the future.
Ordinary Days (through November 17, 2018)
The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-947-8844 or visit http://www.telecharge.com
Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission