Directed by Jason A. Fleece
Music Direction & Accompaniment by Ilana Atkins
At BoHo Theatre, Chicago
Broadway pop chamber song cycle’s style is irritatingly repetitious with predictable rhythms
I understand the potential appeal of Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days after works like The Last Five Years became hits. The unusual talk-song style has the performers singing their narrative to often times plinking staccato piano chords that seem to make the piano fight the singing narrative. This sung-through song cycle finds the four characters basically sounding alike to the point of becoming repetitious, resulting in me tuning out the lyrics. Add to my amazement the two disconnected couples were bland “ordinary” folks struggling to find their place in the world and Ordinary Days becomes a lightweight affair.
My dislike of this contemporary style clots my view of this 80 minute song cycle and my irritation with the singing style makes me think that three of the four singers have limited vocal skills. The only member of the cast to be able to sell his narrative story through song was the dreamer gay guy Warren (the charmingly likable Nick Graffagna). Demetruis Spidle, as Jason, tries for warmth and sincerity but he struggles with this strange talk-singing style. Add that Deb (Hannah Dawe) screens her rage so often that I wanted to scream: “Don’t sing!” Courtney Jones, as the nasty Claire, sang much of her narrative in a rapid-fire patter song style that highlighted her weirdness.
This song cycle has no book yet it is about a couple, Jason and Deb, two ordinary New Yorkers trying to become an item despite their obvious incompatibility. Ordinary is bland, uninteresting, and boring usually musicals are about extraordinary people who arouse emotions. Add the wound-too-tight nasty, acerbic student Claire and three of the four characters were easily unlikeable. Only Nick Graffagna , as the sweet dreamer searching for his fairytale life purpose, impressed me.
This song cycle is filled with vignettes about the four trying to find meaningful connections in a hostile city. Deb is obnoxious while Jason is docile – they try to become an item. I don’t understand the relationship between Warren, a mensch gay guy, who finds Claire’s notebook filled with her thesis. Instead of being grateful, Claire is nasty and insulting toward Warren. Why would he put up with her rudeness? The ongoing interaction between the women and the gay guy is perplexing.
Since I loathe this talk-singing contemporary style of chamber musical, let me state that there is an audience for this show. If you are open to this modern unconventional style, you may find enough charm, wit, and empathy to make this 80 minute show entertaining. At the performance I attended, the 20/30somethings vigorously applauded while the older crowd seemed annoyed.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: February 20, 2015
For more info checkout the Ordinary Days page at theatreinchicago.com
At Boho Theatre at the Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood, Chicago, IL, www.bohotheatre.com, tickets $20, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2pm, running time is 80 minutes without an intermission, through March 15, 2015