New York relationships strive to survive in the musical ‘Ordinary Days’

By Michael Kuchwara, AP
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Relationships strive to survive in ‘Ordinary Days’

NEW YORK — Single folks in New York are often the stuff of American musical theater.

From “On the Town” to “Wonderful Town” to “Company” to “Rent” to “Avenue Q,” young — and sometimes not so young — people grappling with life in the big city have been ready fodder for song.

And they are the driving force behind the modestly titled “Ordinary Days,” the first musical to play the Roundabout Theater Company’s tiny Black Box space as part of its Underground series.

The four-character show, with tinkly melodies and sprightly lyrics by newcomer Adam Gwon, is an unassuming little musical. It’s earnest yet often entertaining, particularly when dealing with the complications afflicting an unhappy graduate student (Kate Wetherhead) who has had the misfortune to lose her thesis somewhere in the bad, bustling metropolis. And, of course, she doesn’t have another copy. OK, you have to stretch the show’s credibility at that point.

Wetherhead has a quirky, offbeat stage presence perfectly suited for this aggressively neurotic young woman, a person quick to form opinions and not shy about expressing them either.

Her notebook is found by a genial, sad-sack young man (a delightful Jared Gertner) who struggles to survive by passing out flyers and baby-sitting the cat of a famous downtown artist. And through e-mail (the young woman’s Web address was on her paper), the two make plans to meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Their relationship occupies one half of the 80-minute musical, alternating with a second twosome. The other, slightly older couple, played by Hunter Foster and Lisa Brescia, have commitment issues, especially after they decide to move in together — and the squabbling begins. Their dilemma is more conventional, but both performers have such definite personalities that they surmount the predictability of Gwon’s take on them.

There is one wisp of a surprise in why this woman can’t cement their partnership, and it’s a bit of unexpected poignancy surfacing right before the evening comes to a close.

Director Marc Bruni has paced the show well. It moves at a steady, unrushed pace, played out against a backdrop of brightly lighted squares that change color as frequently as the characters’ emotions in this slight slice of big-city life.

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