The paradox of living in a big city is that you can feel suffocated by crowds of people and yet completely alone, usually at the same time. Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days is an understated show about the most extraordinary of ordinary experiences: human connection, seemingly at random and left to chance.
In this Australian premiere production, independent music theatre company Squabbalogic continues to impress with their consistent high-calibre productions where the story is given its best possible opportunity to shine. And it’s a great story. We follow four New Yorkers through their immediate day-to-day lives: Deb (Erica Lovell), the acerbic grad student who loses her thesis notes; Warren (Jay James-Moody), the whimsical cat-sitting artist’s messenger who finds them; Claire (Rachael Beck), the woman who can’t quite let go of her past to make room for her moving-in boyfriend; and Jason (Michael Falzon), the boyfriend trying to find a place in New York and Claire’s heart all at once.
When the characters collide and their days turn into a patchwork quilt of loss, conflict, and that ever-present young adult uncertainty of what, exactly, life is supposed to mean, what we begin to see is something that happens in life over again but could never be written about enough: how an individual person can feel so insignificant, and yet make a passing, unconscious effect on someone else’s life that could change it completely.
James Browne’s set design and Sian James-Holland’s lighting is simple and plays homage to the original New York production. It isn’t overbearing; it’s never overbearing. It doesn’t need to be. We are more than transported through the four strong performances on stage.
While all members of the cast deliver exceptional performances, it is Erica Lovell’s Deb that will steal hearts and perhaps the entire show. In turns abrasive and vulnerable, she is wickedly funny and helplessly lovable. It is almost inconceivable that her music theatre career began in 2008; she is one of the most exciting performers I’ve seen of late on Sydney stages. Jay James-Moody continues to prove he can wear multiple creative hats and look good in all of them; this performer and sometime director brings a gently funny, surprisingly thoughtful view to the hopeful Warren, who could have been dangerously one-note in the hands of a lesser actor.
Rachael Beck and Michael Falzon, two very well-established and deservedly lauded figures of Australian music theatre, were perfectly matched in Claire and Jason; Falzon’s charm and Beck’s guarded warmth create a compelling relationship.
The show’s final moments, which start to gather slow steam in Warren and Deb’s ‘Rooftop Duet’, comes to its climax in Claire’s emotional breakthrough ‘I’ll Be Here.’ The threads of the story centre, just for a moment, on the change they have brought about in this one person – a change that’s set in motion, unknowingly, by a stranger’s epiphany.
Ordinary Days tell us that the simple things we often miss when trying to make our lives mean something really do matter; Ordinary Days reminds us that life isn’t just a series of events. Take a moment and let yourself be charmed by this show. You won’t regret it.