Posts Tagged ‘adam gwon’

Ordinary Days
by Adam Gwon
Directed by Elisabeth Wurm
Tesseract Theatre Company
November 18, 2022

Jacob Schmidt, Lauren Tenenbaum
Photo by Taylor Gruenloh
Tesseract Theatre Company

Ordinary Days isn’t a big musical, but its staging is a big step for Tesseract Theatre Company. The show, a sweet-natured relationship story from writer/composer Adam Gwon, is Tesseract’s first venture into the world of musical theatre, after focusing primarily on new and lesser-known plays. As a first foray into a new creative direction, with more musicals planned for next year, I would say this production gets the company off to a promising new start.

The show revolves around four characters–or five, since New York City itself is essentially a co-star in this story. Four young New Yorkers navigate the city, relationships both romantic and platonic, and their life goals in the first decade of the 21st Century. The play is tied to its time for at least one important reason that is made apparent as the story unfolds, but it’s also just as tied to its location, with New York City representing both ordinary day-to-day life struggles as well as the “Big Picture” goals as emphasized in one of the show’s more prominent songs. The characters interact primarily in pairs. There’s Micheal Lowe as Jason, a hopeful young man who has optimistic dreams for his relationship with his girlfriend Claire, played by Brittani O’Connell. The two are embarking on a new stage of their relationship, having just moved in together, but Claire struggles with making a lasting commitment due to issues from her past that she hasn’t revealed to Jason. Meanwhile, ambitious graduate student Deb, played by Lauren Tenenbaum, is frustrated when she misplaces her notebook containing her thesis, and is thrust into a halting friendship with the ever-cheerful Warren, a would-be artist played by Jacob Schmidt. Deb first views Warren, who finds her notebook, with suspicion, but their interactions eventually help her to see beauty in the “little picture” of everyday life in addition to the bigger picture of the lofty goals she pursues. There’s nothing flashy about this story, but it’s simple and full of heart, humor, and moments of poignant drama, focusing on the characters and their relationships as they live their lives in the Big Apple.

The staging is simple but effective, with a deliberate pace dictated mainly by the songs, as the show is mostly sung-through. Even though the odd acoustics of the .ZACK Theatre sometimes make the show difficult to hear, Director Elisabeth Wurm has assembled a strong cast, with excellent ensemble chemistry and credible interaction between the pairs of performers. Lowe is an amiable, believably optimistic Jason, with a strong voice although he tends to sound a bit shouty in some of the more intense moments. He’s well-matched by O’Connell, who is appropriately mysterious as the reticent Claire, and also in good voice except for a few occasional cracks. The best singer in the production is Schmidt, who has a strong tenor voice that works well with his songs and his sometimes overly cheerful character, who Schmidt infuses with an affable spirit that makes him likable even when his cheeriness threatens to go over the top. Tenenbaum also turns in a strong performance as the ambitious, anxious Deb, delivering her songs with energy and conviction, and working especially well with Schmidt as their characters’ unlikely friendship grows. The show also looks good, with the simple staging augmented by Taylor Gruenloh’s memorable projections, Brittanie Gunn’s evocative lighting, and Zach Neumann’s proficient piano accompaniment. 

Pivoting their focus to (mostly) musicals is a bold decision for Tesseract, but Ordinary Days shows that it’s a good call. This show also had the biggest audience I’ve ever seen at a production from this company, so theatregoers seem to like the decision, as well. It’s an auspicious beginning for Tesseract’s next act, represented by a little show with a big heart and a strong cast. 

Micheal Lowe, Brittani O’Connell
Photo by Taylor Gruenloh
Tesseract Theatre Company

The Tesseract Theatre Company is presenting Ordinary Days at the .ZACK Theatre until November 27, 2022

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Ordinary Days
Music and Lyrics by Adam Gwon
Directed by Samantha Stavely
Silhouettes Production Company
June 22, 2017

Clayton Humburg, Grace Minnis, Emily Scott, Gabriel Beckerle
Photo: Silhouettes Production Company

New York is a big city. To many people, it’s THE big city–the iconic representation of what a large, bustling American city is about, full of people with hopes and dreams big and small. NYC is the setting for the four-person, mostly sung-through musical Ordinary Days, which tells the story of four New Yorkers whose lives intersect in somewhat surprising ways. It’s a one-act musical and not very long, but it’s full of energy and a bright, tuneful score. Presented by Silhouettes Production Company at the Chapel, this show features a promising young cast that emphasizes the sincerity and optimism of the piece.

The story follows four people, only two of whom actually know each other at the beginning of the show. Jason (Clayton Humburg) and Claire (Grace Minnie) are a young couple who have been seeing each other for a while and have just decided to move in together, and Jason is excited, although Claire has some secrets she’s not yet ready to share. Meanwhile, the idealistic Warren (Gabriel Beckerle) is house-sitting for a controversial artist and papering the town with flyers quoting the artist’s work, and exasperated grad student Deb (Emily Scott) loses a notebook containing important information for her thesis, and Warren finds it, eventually leading to an unlikely friendship. The story occasionally takes the characters to the same place at the same time, such as when all four take a memorable journey to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but their paths don’t directly cross until near the end of the play. In the meantime, Jason and Claire navigate a difficult stage of their relationship, and Warren and Deb contemplate the purpose of their lives.  It’s a somewhat slight plot, but the focus is on these characters and their interactions, with moments of humor and drama woven into the story punctuated by Adam Gwon’s memorable score.

This production is simply staged, with an evocative two-level set by Emily Rice that suggests the brick buildings and fire escapes of New York backed by a silhouetted skyline. The characters are appropriately outfitted by costume coordinator Katie Melin, and the action is illuminated well by lighting designer Nick Cook. The staging is brisk and energetic, with strong characterizations and excellent vocals by an energetic young cast, with Scott as the stressed-out Deb and Beckerle as the exhaustingly optimistic Warren as real stand-outs. Beckerle’s voice in particular is strong and clear from his first number, the show-opening “One by One by One”. There’s a great combative chemistry between these two as well. Humburg and Minnis are also excellent as Jason and Claire, bringing a believable emotion to their story, although Minnis reads as slightly young for the backstory that is revealed for Claire. Still, they make a convincing couple, and Humburg brings an endearing determination to his role as well. There’s good singing all around, well supported by accompanist Ellie Bode on piano.

This is an encouraging show. It’s a refreshingly sincere, character-driven story that also succeeds in making its setting a character in itself.  This is the second production of this show I have seen (after seeing it a few years ago in London), and it’s a good one.  It’s a vibrant show with a lot of heart, from a production company with which I hadn’t been familiar before, and I’m impressed.  It’s an excellent effort, and well worth seeing.

Silhouettes Production Company is presenting Ordinary Days a the Chapel until June 24, 2017.

 

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