‘Ordinary Days’ chronicles the lives of New York’s contemporary tempest-tossed
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The feeling is familiar to anyone who has ever lived in New York — whether as a “native” (as I was), or a “newbie,” or whether as a starving artist or a well-heeled professional. There are just days, sometimes months, when you move along with the hard-driven hordes there and feel like so much flotsam and jetsam — a speck in a monumental pointillist painting.
This is the feeling that sometimes envelopes the four characters in Adam Gwon’s “Ordinary Days,” the show now receiving an intimate, heartfelt Chicago debut by BoHo Theatre, where it has been ably directed by Jason A. Fleece, with musical direction and strong piano accompaniment by Ilana Atkins.
When: Through March 15
Where: BoHo Theatre at Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood
Info: (866) 811-4111; BoHoTheatre.com
Run time: 80 minutes with no intermission
More of a theatrical song cycle than a full-fledged musical, “Ordinary Days” follows the unsettled relationships and careers of four 20-somethings with quite different personalities and circumstances. And over the course of 19 songs — far more noteworthy for their clever lyrics than their rather tedious melodies — they learn something about themselves and their hopes for the future.
Warren (an appealingly wistful Nick Graffagna) is a nerdy guy in his 20s, an aspiring artist who very likely is gay. When we first encounter him, he is trying to salvage the reputation of the affluent artist he works for and spends his days standing on a busy street corner, distributing fliers bearing uplifting messages (“Kindness is a virtue that is often times ignored”) to people who brusquely brush him off.
Deb (a winningly wound-up and acerbic Hannah Dawe) is about the same age as Warren. A restless soul who escaped “a suburb of a suburb,” she has tried living in many places and has ended up in grad school in New York, where she is working, quite unhappily, on a thesis about Virginia Woolf. When she leaves her all-important notebook in the subway, it is Warren who finds it and arranges to return it to her in a gallery in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (a very funny encounter), but not before she emails her professor some hilarious notes begging for an extension.
It is romantic tension and unmatched expectations that fuel the story’s two 30-somethings: Claire (the stylish, strong-voiced Courtney Jones, who brings just the right sense of neurotic claustrophobia to her portrayal), and Jason (Demetrius Spidle), a misguided romantic).
After shuttling between their two apartments for about a year, Jason moves into Claire’s already crowded place that is just 14 blocks away. It’s not a great idea, as anyone who lives in a tiny New York apartment can tell you. (Patrick Ham’s set of old apartment doors layered with thick white paint captures the real estate situation in a nutshell.) And the two turn out to be on quite different emotional trajectories anyway. When Jason proposes, things only go from bad to worse.
This is not a story of happily ever afters. But, in the tradition of Stephen Sondheim, Gwon captures the bittersweet accrual of a certain kind of wisdom. And in the show’s final song, “Beautiful,” he even manages to put an extra shine on Cezanne’s apples.