Ordinary Days, the musical now playing at the Great Canadian Theater Company, examines the ordinariness of day-to- day foibles, the randomness of chance encounters and the extraordinarily life-changing outcomes that sometimes emerge from both.
Someone loses a notebook. Its finder arranges to return it and the couple meet. Elsewhere, a new arrival to town moves in with his girlfriend. Sightseeing list in hand, they wind up at the same place, same time, as the couple exchanging the notebook.
Four otherwise unconnected lives haphazardly connect at a rendezvous, Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the consequences are what elevate Ordinary Days beyond the everyday. This musical jewel from Adam Gwon captures the ordinary lives of four ordinary New Yorkers.
Neither Kennedys nor Rockefellers, they’re just like us: a tad off-kilter and momentarily disconnected from society or the city or their significant other in a way that people everywhere can relate to. It reminds us through song that everyone’s story is interesting, everyone’s hiding a secret or an insecurity, everyone’s got some crap to work through to get themselves right.
Hearing such disillusionment sung from a stage is at first disarming. Then somehow or other the pieces fall into place, one ditty after another, and we’re drawn into the characters’ humanity.
Initially, we take Warren (Zach Counsil) for a loser, the Invisible Man nobody sees but everyone skirts as they pass and who might otherwise be homeless were it not for his cushy gig: house-sitting for an artist doing jail-time. Poignantly teased out by Counsil, Warren reveals himself as profounder than his perennial Pollyanna persona implies. Eager for people to see the world’s beauty around them, it’s Warren who finds the mislaid notebook.
It belongs to Deb (Katie Ryerson at her taut best), an escapee from the dead-end ‘burbs whose aspirations match only her acerbic wit and irascible attitude. The high-strung grad student who spouts off her byzantine coffee order at Starbucks and shows contempt for Warren’s order of “just tea” conveys perfectly the neurotic in Ryerson’s character that makes her such fun. Ryerson is the thin ice-queen to Counsil’s cherubic baby-face and, as antithetical as each is to the other, both nail the comedic Odd Couple kinship that blooms.
They win us over more readily than the real couple does. Newbie to town Jason (carried by the vocally gifted Gab Desmond), and conflicted Claire (Jennifer Cecil), the girlfriend into whose apartment Jason must shoehorn his stuff, try to make a go of it but something’s amiss. Claire can neither let go of her stuff, like an old sweater in a box, nor find room in her heart to give herself fully to Jason, who’s sure she’s ‘the one.’ Their spat at the Met then their split from a cab over what to bring, red or white wine to go with fish (duh!), tell us they’re done for.
Four otherwise unconnected lives haphazardly connect at a rendezvous…and the consequences are what elevate Ordinary Days beyond the everyday.
The couple’s fate is clinched at the foursome’s second chance encounter, just as the wide-ranged Cecil delivers the most powerful and pivotal ballad of the 18-song repertoire.
Directing is GCTC’s own Eric Coates, coaxing pizazz and polish from the silken-voiced cast.
Seth Gerry’s unelaborate set and lighting design works well for its versatile simplicity. But the unsung hero of Ordinary Days is music director and pianist Wendy Berkelaar, who’s so remarkably attuned to the cast’s harmonies that I studied her, waiting for her to turn the sheet of music.
Who knew that it’s all electronic – go iPad!
Ordinary Days is better than ordinary. Neither predictable nor conventional, it’s pleasing in its rom-com- esqueness (I made that up) and you can’t lose by heeding the play’s sage advice: “Take the scenic route. Life is not a metered ride.”
Ordinary Days will run on the GCTC stage from October 31 – November 19
Tickets: 613-236-5196 or GCTC.ca