Harrington Theatre Arts Company’s (HTAC) production of the musical “Ordinary Days” struck several wistful chords with me as I watched it.
The show begins by introducing its four main and only characters – Jason, his girlfriend Claire, Warren and Deb. They reenact a familiar theme of living in New York City in a charming and endearing way.
While the show only had an 85-minute run time, it shed light on the simple yet thought-provoking situations that twenty-somethings face in a city that very well makes them just a face in the crowd.
Jason moves in with Claire, who seems a little reluctant to be taking a step toward marriage and commitment. The two then embark on a journey where they realize that living together will take more patience and compromise than they were used to in their former lives.
One particular shining moment between the two characters is during the number “I’m Trying,” where they lament adjusting to the other’s quirks and eccentricities. In an age where hookups, instantaneous rejection or satisfaction are available with a left or right swipe on a dating app, this small moment took my breath away. Instead of a musical number that showcased the downward spiral of the relationship, Jason and Claire just say “I’m trying.”
The show progresses and our four characters are brought together to the same location – the Metropolitan Museum of Art – but for different reasons. Warren and Deb, strangers at this point, meet in front of a Monet painting so Deb can retrieve her thesis notes that Warren happened to find after she lost them. Meanwhile, Claire and Jason are there for a day out.
The four launch into an uptempo and melodious tune, “A Sort of Fairytale,” that keeps the pace of the show and is able to characterize these four even further. Deb, a graduate student, and Warren, a struggling musician, are able to demonstrate their starkly contrasting personalities.
Throughout the number, Deb singlemindedly keeps asking for her journal, whereas Warren embodies his free spirit and tells Deb that fate brought them together for a reason.
The number is so endearing due to the fact that it showcases two very different lives trying to accomplish the same goal, that is they are trying to make their ordinary lives work for them in whatever way they know how, either through books or music.
The message of the show can be encompassed in one line. “Huddled together in random arrangements/that nobody expects” Warren says, “Every dot, on its own ordinary and pale/But thrown together one by one/They make this dazzling, joyous, hopeful, sort of.”
The musical is just able to speak to the average, the ordinary person, which made me satisfied as I watched because I could see myself in the characters. I could see myself trying my hardest, feeling underappreciated, trying to matter. And that’s what makes the show so enjoyable.
Throughout the show, Warren and Deb are able to strike up a very sincere friendship, which I believe makes their characters and the message of the show stronger. There doesn’t need to be passion for their character development to have an arc, which I also think speaks to the fact that one doesn’t need a significant other to help them reach their best self.
Overall, modern threads are woven through this musical, and those stories are told in a very gentle way, with a simple plot. The characters are flawed, but with relatable traits. As I continued to watch, I realized once again that I’m not alone in the great span of the world. And even though a day might be ordinary, that doesn’t mean it still can’t bring you happiness.