South Coast Repertory
Costa Mesa, Calif.
“Those who like to spot talented theatrical up-and-comers will want to check out Adam Gwon,” said Charles McNulty in the Los Angeles Times. A gifted young composer/librettist, Gwon has a knack for “musicalizing everyday moments of emotional turmoil.” His compositional skills are still “as green as an unripe banana in places,” and the plot of Ordinary Days—about a quartet of young Manhattanites chasing their dreams in the “anonymous big city”—is hardly original. Yet this chamber musical signals the entrance of an important new voice in musical theater. Something about the way Gwon spins “old-fashioned New York neurosis” into “arrestingly poetic” moments of confessional song makes Ordinary Days seem anything but commonplace.
Gwon’s characters are a ragged crew getting run down by life in the Big Apple, said Paul Hodgins in the Orange County, Calif., Register. Deb, a harried graduate student, is working on an unpromising thesis about Virginia Woolf. Warren the failed poet passes out homemade handbills on which he’s scrawled rosy aphorisms. Jason and Claire, a young couple, can’t figure out how to live together. Gradually, the lives of these characters intersect at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where each achieves a sort of catharsis. As they sing away their troubles, Gwon’s lyrics sound remarkably “like the offhand conversations of sharp 20-somethings.”
Too bad the music he’s written to accompany them “only occasionally rises above the ordinary,” said Tom Provenzano in the LA Weekly. Most of Ordinary Days’ 18 songs are “pattering ditties that give the cast little to work with.” Still, the four winning performers—David Burnham, Nick Gabriel, Deborah S. Craig, and Nancy Anderson—deftly navigate the score’s pitfalls. Occasionally, Gwon can even achieve a rhythmic complexity reminiscent of Stephen Sondheim, and musical director Dennis Castellano beautifully handles such moments. It’s hard, watching Ordinary Days, not to catch glimpses of Gwon’s promise. But first he must summon the ambition to aim for something far beyond this “light, predictable pop musical.”