In the event you don’t read my entire review (shame on you!) let me start by saying this: if you can get tickets to see Passion Theatre Group’s “Ordinary Days” this weekend, do it. Have dinner a little early, go grocery shopping a little later, or go Sunday when there’s a matinee. Whatever. It is 80 minutes of entertainment that is well worth the time and effort.
Now, with that out of the way, here’s what will you see when you go: Adam Gwon has written this chamber musical to tell the story of four young New Yorkers who are at that intersection of life between unbounding hope and the stress and pressure of reality. While each of them has their own story and journey to sort out, they intersect in ways that are amazing reflections of how life really works.
The show starts with opportunities for us to meet each of the characters. Spencer Beyerlein plays Warren, a young artist (we think) trying to brighten the days of those who pass by but feeling ignored and invisible. Beyerlein clearly embraces this role and plays the struggle between uncontrolled optimism and the weight of pessimism with skill and nuance. His interpretation of the reprise of “Life Story” allows us to watch Warren deal with maturity and grow in front of us from the beginning of the song to the end.
Janelle Bublitz plays the graduate student Deb whose song “Don’t Wanna Be Here” sets the stage for a young woman in search of herself, of her place, and of her future. Bublitz’s delightfully neurotic take on Deb provides both laughter and moments that strike very close to home for the audience. Bublitz finds the sweet spot with her song “Calm” that will relate to every person attending. If you don’t believe she is singing about you, you aren’t listening to the song.
Jason and Claire, a young couple moving in together, provide the catalyst for some realizations of their own. Jonah Connor plays Jason as an energetic albeit clueless young man who begins to understand that long-term commitment is not as easy as it seems. Connor’s “The Space Between” is presented with just the right amount of excitement to remind all of us of that first moment when we think we’re finally in a grown-up relationship.
Erica Close provides a level of complexity to Claire that lets us see that even ordinary relationships have their struggles. In “Let Things Go” she provides some insight into her hesitation and pensiveness, but it seems she is never particularly eager for this cohabitation. Near the end of the show, during “I’ll Be Here” we get the full story of what is fueling her reluctance. Close could easily over-play this final number but handles it with a delicacy which makes it a powerful and emotional number.
Having said all of that, the stand-out moments on stage were when Bublitz and Beyerlein were together. This is not to imply any negative to Close and Connor at all. Occasionally we have all seen a chemistry that can’t be directed or manipulated but just happens between two performers. Bublitz and Beyerlein were magnetic. Much of their communication was non-verbal and subtle which only happens when that connection is there. For a show with a short rehearsal period and the first time these two actors were working together, it was delightful.
The direction by Chad Baker was simple and insightful. Directing in a thrust is a challenge, and for the most part the intimacy outweighed the inherent difficulties of having the audience on three sides. There were a few times where it seemed the actors were running to get to the safety of the corners so as not to block the view of any audience members. The challenge, however, was greater since the audience members were all on the same level as the actors. Still, as the show progressed, there was more reason for movement and as a result much of the problem resolved itself.
The only real criticism I have is more of an observation than a complaint. I’m not sure why Music Director Ryan Sequin chose to mic the performers in such an intimate space. There were a few times where the songs were pitchy, especially in the group numbers. During these songs the piano would also become loud. I suspect the problem was less the singers and more that, when a singer is overly amplified, they often can’t hear the accompaniment and as a result will drift. A common response is to turn up the sound, which of course just exacerbates the problem. This didn’t happen often but would be an easy fix with some experimentation.
All in all, this is a show that producer Aidan Montgomery and all involved with should be proud of. The show continues Saturday, January 19th at 7:30pm and Sunday, January 20th at 3:00pm. All performances are held at the Bullock Creek High School Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at passiontheatre.ticketleap.com.