Theatre Review: ‘Ordinary Days’ at Blackfriars Theatre

The cast of ‘Ordinary Days’ at Blackfriars Theatre. Photo by Megan Colombo.

Within the ordinary hides the potential for the extraordinary. Set in New York City circa 2008, “Ordinary Days” follows the lives of four ordinary individuals. Each a transplant to the city, having their own hopes and dreams, their own “big picture,” yet each struggles with what it means when inevitably life happens and their picture has changed from a classic portrait to a modern art abstract.

The acting is superb. . .

Warren (Hector Manuel) and Deb (Kit Prelewitz) are fresh faced twenty-somethings, their ideals still intact when the audience first meets them. Doubt in their grand plans slowly creeps in as the reality of day to day living in a city like New York starts to become apparent. While Deb holds fast to her original plans, becoming more rigid and jaded in the process, Warren has an easier time of holding on to his sunny outlook on life by letting go of his expectations, and more clearly seeing the “big picture” for what it really is.

Jason (Colin D. Pazik) and Claire (Emily Putnam) are a couple in their thirties, struggling to figure out what their next steps are in life. Having more life experience than Warren and Deb, both know that life plans can change in a moment. On the surface, their paths seem to be joined, but when they look deeper into their life picture, they start to wonder if they are starting to diverge from each other.

As a former New Yorker myself, I loved this musical. Frequent references to New York City landmarks (The Met, Penn Station, Union Square) made me nostalgic for my own time in “The City.” I could relate so much to the idealism of Warren and Deb, having come to New York as a twenty-something myself, as well as the more experienced reality of what life really is as seen through the eyes of Jason and Claire. Hector Manuel’s portrayal of Warren was a refreshing balance of comedy to the edgy stress of Kit Prelewitz’s Deb. Colin D. Pazik’s Jason still holds on to fragments of that idealism that brought him to New York to begin with, but Emily Putnam’s Claire has clearly lost that. (We find out why later in the production.)

The production is done well. The acting is superb, each actor exploring the depths of what goes through an individual’s inner dialog in these ordinary day moments. I particularly liked Hector’s ability to insert humor within each of his scenes and Kit’s frequent ramp ups to an apparent crisis with a sudden aside that brings us all down to the reality of the situation. The scenery is minimal but once the actors are on stage they are able to create the scene with ease for the audience. New York City, a fifth character, comes alive under the talent of these four individuals. The hustle and bustle of the city streets, the often cramped living and travel conditions, the underlying frustration of trying to get around, as well as the gloriousness that the city has to offer all come through like a beautiful Monet painting. Musical Director, Andy Pratt’s Billy Joel-like piano man, has a wonderful ability to play the music as well as simultaneously deliver witty wordless “lines” adding to the underlying comedy of the production.

“Ordinary Days” leaves you with so much to think about in the end. How life can change in an instant. How seemingly ordinary moments can tell a lifetime of stories. How a picture at first glance can seem simple but can hold a depth of complexity that would have been missed if we hadn’t taken the time to really savor it. Finding that, while it’s the extraordinary that often changes the trajectories of our lives, it’s the ordinary of every day that brings meaning to them.

Run time: 90 minutes with no intermission

“Ordinary Days” is playing at Blackfriars Theatre until February 17, 2018 in Rochester. For more information, click here.