Art, books and boxes are labelled ‘Kitchen’ and ‘This Way Up.’ The people who belong to these possessions haven’t yet found a reason to settle in the city that never sleeps.
Ordinary Days shows us four young people, Jason and Clare, Deb and Warren and their search to find directions, in every sense.
Ordinary Days by Valley Arts Theatre Company
John Cooper Theatre, 41 Monkgate, York
Till Feb 18
This musical has both wit and heart (unusual for a modern, urban piece) and a surprising amount of innocence.
The opening song One by One by One, introduces us to the restlessly upbeat Warren (Sam Lightfoot-Loftus), cat-sitter to an erstwhile artist (currently held at the President’s pleasure.)
Warren looks as though he should go into advertising and in a sense he does; he hands out flyers with positive messages to passers by (“Be yourself, everyone else is taken,” “Live every day to the full”) none of whom seem interested.
No one it seems except Deb. Deb (Emma-Louise Lane) is an ambitious yet uncertain grad student working on a thesis about Virginia Woolf (whom she does not like), which predictably gets lost on the subway.
Warren finds it and the two meet. After a swift clash of wits, he becomes both fan and friend and the two explore the city together.
Their relationship is platonic (an unexpected, sophisticated decision) while Clare and Jason are a struggling couple. Jason (Matthew Ainsworth), long-suffering in the extreme, continually works to move the relationship forward just as Claire holds back.
I felt we weren’t given sufficient reason for this; Claire (Jess Main) appears cold and even cruel in her continuous rejection of her lover, as first he offers to move in and then proposes. Her reason finally becomes clear in the stunning I’ll Be Here, a coup de théatre which I won’t reveal.
The show is driven by its songs (brilliantly written by composer-lyricist Adam Gwon) and perfectly suited to these young people and their concerns.
Stand-out moments include the fast-paced, hilarious Dear Professor Thompson, and the company number Saturday At The Met. with its reference to Sondheim’s Sunday In The Park With George (surely deliberate) and Into The Woods.
Everyone is lost in this great forest of culture and you wonder if they will ever emerge. All the characters’ paths cross here, briefly (as they must), but without acknowledgement.
Less plot, more charm
A somewhat sparse plot is made up for with intelligence and charm. Is the final scene (in which Warren defends his decision to buy a still life of apples) a reference to New York itself?
At last he explains the show’s title: how the light reflected on everyday objects shows that anything can be beautiful. Thus there are no such things as ‘ordinary’ days.
All four hectic lives do impact on one another in the end, however indirectly. Warren decides to rid himself of the messages by throwing them from the top a Manhattan skyscraper.
They fall like confetti and Claire catches one, prompting her to explain her reticence. From such incidental moments lives are changed.
This is the inaugural production by Valley Arts Theatre Company and it is good to see new work for the musical theatre performed by such a committed cast. Ordinary Days runs until Saturday. See it in Old York while you have the chance.