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Just Another Day

As played by Patty McCormack and author Dan Lauria himself, she and he are appealing company as they travel down memory lane.

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Dan Lauria and Patty McCormack in Lauria’s “Just Another Day” at Theater 555 (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

In Dan Lauria’s Just Another Day, a man and a woman meet daily at a park bench but can’t recall how they know each other. We are never certain as to their relationship as this elderly couple appear to have dementia or incipient Alzheimer’s. Each time they meet in this same park location, their stories change. Whatever the truth of their lives is, as played by Patty McCormack and author Lauria himself they are appealing company as they travel down memory lane. Yes, the Patty McCormack who played eight year old Rhoda in The Bad Seed (1954) and Esther in Morning’s at Seven (2021 revival) and the Dan Lauria from The Wonder Years (1988 – 1993), the Broadway shows Lombardi (2011) and The Christmas Story (2012), and Morning’s at Seven (2021) where he previously worked with McCormack, so that we have some history with these people also.

Are they in an institution? They speak of pills and shock treatments. Each time they touch, a bell rings and interrupts them. In the final scene she is pushed on stage in a wheelchair by a nurse dressed in white, so at least one thing is confirmed. In the first act they ponder if they have been lovers or even married to each other. As we know older people remember their pasts more clearly than yesterday and they speak of movies from the 1940’s with great recollection, mostly films with great love affairs (His Girl Friday, The Awful Truth, My Man Godfrey, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Laura, etc.) Their theme seems to be love and desire, something older people ponder as their memories fade.

Patty McCormack and Dan Lauria in Lauria’s “Just Another Day” at Theater 555 (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

In the second act, she is confident she has been a poet and then a comedy writer. He is confirmed to have been a marine and a painter in a second career after retiring. Was he a stand-up comic? He recalls an entire routine that she is supposed to have written and reenacts it. She also recalls having performed a nightclub act at The Gardenia Room and sung “Blue Skies.” She does know all the words but is her recollection to be believed? Words seem to obsess her, jokes seem to obsess him. By the end of the last scene they seem to have gotten older but their need for each other is as strong as ever, even if they can’t recall meeting the day before.

Just Another Day resembles such plays about senior citizens as D.L. Coburn’s The Gin Game, David Storey’s Home, Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy, and the current musical The Notebook with book by Bekah Brunstetter. The weakness of Lauria’s play is that is it too long for the lack of incidents as not much happens in the course of the two acts. However, under Eric Krebs’ direction, McCormack and Lauria are good company and bring years of experience to their roles. She (as her character is named in the script) is sophisticated, articulate and elegant. She relishes big words and recalling things she has memorized. He is rougher around the edges, sometimes crude but always respectful and deferential. Together they work as though they have been a team for years.

Dan Lauria and Patty McCormack in Lauria’s “Just Another Day” at Theater 555 (Photo credit: Russ Rowland)

The uncredited set depicting a corner of a park is quite attractive with its bench, rock, lamp post, manicured lawn and meandering path. Bettina Bierly’s pleasant costumes define the characters and show the changes in them over time. The lighting design by Joan Racho-Jansen shifts subtly to represent the passing of time from day to evening when they are called into their off-stage residence. Andy Evan Cohen’s sound design includes snatches of old songs in their original versions as well as the ever present bell.

Dan Lauria’s Just Another Day is quite leisurely in its delivery but Lauria and McCormack inhabit their roles. While the play could use some pruning, it is a charming portrait of two elderly people drifting into an age when they cannot count on their memories but know that there is something important they wish to recall. Their hidden backstories and their changing recollections at times make this play like a mystery as well as a comedy. Just Another Day is a tribute to those people old enough to know that their pasts are slipping away unless they can pin them down.

Just Another Day (through June 30, 2024)

Theater 555, 555 W. 42nd Street in Manhattan

For tickets, visit http://www.theater555.venuetix.com

Running time: one hour and 45 minutes including one intermission

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About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (990 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

1 Comment on Just Another Day

  1. Theresa Jaffe // May 21, 2024 at 7:31 pm // Reply

    Sounds like a very timely play

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