Penfold Theatre’s current production of Ordinary Days with music and lyrics by Adam Gwon offers a look at life in the big city of New York for four single Gen X’ers. Presented on a sparse stage with just the suggestion of time and place, the performers draw the audience in and shine a laser beam on each character: their humanity, their vulnerability, their universality. Director Michael McKelvey proves once again that he is a the king of Chamber musicals, and musical theatre as a whole in his superb staging of this new musical.
Some moments are so beautiful that it is almost painful to watch as these four young people reveal, through a series of vignettes, their struggles to build lives and relationships that are meaningful and fulfilling. We share their struggles, their hurts, and their high- and low-points as they try to find meaning in their lives and search for someone to love.
Deb, played by Sarah Marie Curry, is a grad student who loses her notebook containing all of her research notes for her thesis. Curry’s performance is truly exceptional, and her voice is powerful. She breathes life into the character of Deb, and as Deb anguishes over having to inform her professor of the catastrophe of her lost research material, we feel every painful, funny moment in Dear Professor Thompson. Ms. Curry crafts a strong, interesting character that we immediately recognize as one of our friends, our family members, ourselves. Claire, played by Haley Smith, creates a touching characterization of a young woman who has loved, experienced loss, and dares to love again. Whether she will go forward on a new path or continue to look backward to what was is not resolved until the final moments. Joe Hartman as Warren gives a heartwarming portrayal of a sensitive guy looking for friends and true purpose. His performance grows well with each passing scene. The last member of the ensemble is Matthew Redden who gives a stirring and heartbreaking performance his moment singing “My Favorite Places” is a true highlight of the show.
The show is kept together well in the timing and
musicality by the amazingly talented Dustin Struhall on Piano, who not only accompanies the cast but also trained them as Musical Director. One critical note is that the placement of the piano and the fervor with which it is played tends to drown out the male voices on more than one occasion.
Young adults today are not so terribly different from those of previous generations and while we might point out the generational differences, their struggles and desires are so very similar…to be loved, to find your place in the world, to contribute. Thanks to the Penfold folks for reminding us. WE give this show 4 out of 5 Stars for a job well done!