Photo Credit: Lauren Sarney
“Ordinary Days” proved to be anything but ordinary at Palmerston Theatre.
Lauren Sarney, Senior Staff Writer
Recently, I was walking home from work when I was struck by the sheer complexity of Toronto. I’d gotten off at Bloor Station, and upon stepping out of the station I was taken aback by the monstrous buildings, looming in a way I’d never contemplated before. Yet I was also overcome with a feeling of appreciation as I walked down the street and noticed bits of life happening around me: a 20-something-year-old getting his haircut at Duke’s, a barista with a white bow in her hair, people coming and going that Friday evening. These moments were minuscule, yet breathtaking. They were, in a word, ordinary — which is the main theme of Ordinary Days, a play I was lucky enough to see when the SMC Troubadours put it on at the Palmerston Theatre this past weekend. Written by Adam Gwon, the piece follows four New Yorkers as their lives intersect one fateful day.
New York is an often-discussed city, and the Troubadours made it pulse with life. Nicholas Spina delivered an extraordinary opening in his role as Warren, an energetic yet lost assistant to a jailed artist. His vigor and comedic timing took the crowd by storm. When he stood to throw multi-coloured papers over the top of a building, the scene thrummed with realism, and I felt, for a moment, as terrified as the character Deb that he might fall over! On that note, Deb was brought to life brilliantly by Lizzy White, whose bluntness complemented Spina’s character perfectly. During “Dear Professor,” Deb loses her notes for her thesis, and White played this aggravation entirely convincingly — both her vocals and her acting chops shone in the song “Calm.” Jordan Davis and Jaxzen Sandell played couple Claire and Jason, and together they lit up the stage. It was simple, but what struck me most about Davis’ performance was her attentiveness to the objects around her. During “Let Things Go,” Claire is sorting through the items she will have to get rid of to make space for her boyfriend in her apartment, and White’s mesmerizing observance of each individual piece she held up — a red sweater, Valentines from years past — made me believe truly in her reality. Sandell was charismatic and fluid — a stark contrast to Claire’s rigidity — and the song in which they speak right to the audience was stunning.
The ensemble made up of Grace Li, Hemali Ratnaweera, Erika Dowd, and Kaitlin Cranston explored the space exceptionally and made New York explode into being. Playing every character from a mime and personalities of the pier to “The Creation of Adam,” this cast put in the work and it paid off brilliantly. Even in the background, they shone like real professionals. It was at this point that I realized the stunning background music was, in fact, not prerecorded but the masterful playing of Jo O’Leary-Ponzo. I mean this without exaggeration — not a note missed. This whole piece was a labour of love, and it shows: everything from the lighting design to the official photography was thought through and the result was exceptional.
As students at U of T, it can at times feel as though the city is waiting to swallow us whole with its incredibly large landscape and inability to pause. But when art like Ordinary Days is there to be seen, and normalcy is around to be savoured, every day can turn out good. As Jenna Borden, the piece’s theatrical maestro, puts it in her director’s note: “Remember that ordinary isn’t a bad thing. It’s an opportunity to look for and treasure the good.”