As I took my seat on opening night of O’Connell and Company’s latest production, the musical, “Ordinary Days,” I was not exactly brimming with enthusiasm.
Another play about four beautiful young people whiling away their lives in New York City, a heavy pall of “Woe is me” hanging over the stage. Hasn’t this story line been done 1,000 times?
But a funny thing happened when the actors took the stage: They delivered one of the finest performances I’ve seen from a Western New York theatre company.
“Ordinary Days” is a raw tale of self-discovery. Deb (Jennel Pruneda) is a floundering grad student, trying desperately to finish her thesis. Her life will soon intersect with Warren (Reed Bentley), a quirky, optimistic soul who spends his days trying to manufacture human connection and his nights cat-sitting for a jailed artist.
Across the stage are Claire (Edith Grossman) and Jason (Adam Hayes), who are taking their relationship to the next level by moving in together in Claire’s apartment. It was small for one person, unbearable for two, and cohabitation becomes the impetus for uncovering all that is wrong – and ultimately right – with their relationship.
Together, these four wandering souls offer a sense of optimism and hope in the face of adversity, and a future that can be bright despite the doom that appears to be coming soon.
“Ordinary Days” is set up for success with a score of quirky, laugh-out-loud funny songs that range from dark angst (“I Don’t Want to be Here”) to the final piece, (“Beautiful”).
As for the actors, leading the way is Pruneda as the pessimistic Deb. She is mesmerizing. She offers what should rightfully be an award-winning performance and delivers many of the show’s funniest moments. Her performance singing, “Dear Professor Thompson,” a song that captures a desperate email to her unforgiving academic adviser, is a highlight. Pruneda brings Deb to life and will make you love her, hate her and relate to her.
Paired with Reed Bentley as Warren, the flamboyant, art-loving soul desperate for friendship and purpose, the two team up for wonderful on-stage chemistry, never more evident that when they take to a rooftop and sing the aptly titled, “Rooftop Duet.”
Elizabeth Grossman as Claire, a woman trapped in a relationship that isn’t what she first thought it would be, offers an admirable performance. Her voice is the strongest of the cast, showcased in Act I with “Let Things Go.” Alongside Hayes, she delivers the role of the stuck-in-a-rut girlfriend that should seem familiar to some. For his part, Hayes may have the least developed character, but he does a fine job of fanning the fires of relationship conflict and, ultimately coming full circle to the woman he truly loves.
“Ordinary Days” is a must-see for anyone who has ever asked the question, “What am I doing with my life?”