There is risk in attempting to put everyday life on the stage. Make it too realistic, and quite frankly, there’d be nothing to watch. Take one step too far, and you’ve transported your audience into another mindset. Lily Shoretz ’16, in her direction of “Ordinary Days,” somehow gets the balance just right. It’s life, but with all the charm of a New York fairy tale.
“Ordinary Days,” a one-act play by Adam Gwon, is almost entirely sung. The inspiring lyrics and multifarious melodies are juxtaposed with day-to-day routine, making the mundane seem rather exceptional. Each of the four characters is easy to connect with — no one character dominates, nor does one slip into the background. For 90 minutes, these are the only four people worth noting in the city of New York.
The honesty of the story is reflected in its minimalistic set, placing focus on the characters and their relationships with each other, as opposed to the city. The empty frames present a striking symbolism, echoing the idea of a life waiting to be filled. The characters, who cross paths at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, yearn for the freedom that art represents. Despite the Nick Chapel Theater’s small size, the production manages to capture the ample diversity of New York’s urban geography.
Skyler Ross ’16, also the producer of the show, plays Warren — a fresh-faced character who captivates the audience with his optimistic naiveté and charming awkwardness. Ross plays him with such sensitivity and honesty that his sheer presence on stage will warm your heart. Ari Fernandez ’15 plays Warren’s stark opposite: Deb, a cynical grad student. It is clear that she has been disappointed by the bright lights of the big city, and the narrative arc of her character shows the harsh reality that life isn’t always what we want it to be post-graduation. Yet, Fernandez’s humorous portrayal ensures that the audience does not linger on her scornfulness. Her sarcasm is perfectly timed to make Deb funny, and the ease with which she sings her quick lines is particularly impressive. Deb and Warren’s chance encounter forms the story of an unlikely pair who transforms each other’s perspectives for the better. It’s a cliché, but it doesn’t make you cringe — you learn to believe again in the power of friendship, however unlikely the cause may be.
But “Ordinary Days” is not solely the story of Warren and Deb. In an unrelated plane, Jason and Claire (Zachary Elkind ’17 and Zina Ellis ’15) play a couple in midst of moving into a more mature stage in their relationship. This shift occurs with no small amount of awkwardness, as Jason and Claire grapple with their different approaches to the change. And, while I find it hard to believe that they are madly in love, maybe that it is the point. Their relationship is not a Hollywood romance that we would fervently idolize. It is practical, tender and considerate. Elkind, like much of the cast, comes into his stride in the second half of the play, when Jason’s songs turn to emotive ballads. His rendition of “Hundred Story City” demonstrates his ability to portray intricate and subtle emotions in a way that is truly moving, as opposed to exaggerated. And while each of the cast put on incredible performances, Ellis steals the show with “I’ll Be Here.” While she is flawless throughout, this song elevates her performance to an entirely different level of professionalism. I was at a loss for words and full of awe as she reached her final note, crooning, “but I’m ready to start.” I barely noticed that I was looking at her through tear-filled eyes.
Without a doubt though, the most powerful moments of the play occur when the paths of all four characters collide, if only for a second. The play’s visually enchanting climax shows that the acts of a stranger do have the power to inform your decisions and change the way you view things. It does not matter if you are in the largest city in the world, or if you are just four people — we are all somehow interconnected.
“Ordinary Days” encapsulates the endless possibilities of life without romanticizing the impossible dreams of our childhoods. The play teaches us to consider reality as an option, to hold on to our relationships and not lose sight of what makes life worth living. It conveys the tension between what we think we’re expected to do, and what our real desires are. “Ordinary Days” fills its audience with hope that there is beauty amid the concrete, and it challenges each of us to see life in its multicolored splendor. Hold out for the second half — the musical themes become less repetitive and the honest and inspiring characters will make you smile, in spite of your urge to cry. The songs may stick in your head for weeks, but the play’s insight into the ordinary will remain with you for much longer.