Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
Just Another Day
Also see Fred's recent review of Here You Come Again: How Dolly Saved My Life in 12 Easy Songs
The play is about two older people who are alone and find themselves talking to one another while seated on a park bench. He (Lauria) writes comedy and she (Jodi Long) is a poet. Lauria and Long worked together for five years on "Sullivan & Son" which aired on TBS from 2012-2015. It is the Woman (Long) who immediately entices the audience at the outset of Just Another Day. Long's smile is infectious in the most positive way and her Woman is loquacious as Lauria's Man has fewer words during opening moments, but he provides fuel for the very smart Woman, attempting to persuade her to continue to write. Initially, there is primary question about what might occur during the next hour into the following day. A bell tolls every so often and that might be a signal utilized for people (in memory care facilities) who are in need. Or, it could be a summoning to another phase of one's existence. The observer is free to contemplate.
Man and Woman tend to find themselves on the park bench on a daily basis. Christopher and Justin Swader's set includes the focal bench plus a street light and a semi-circular backdrop of clouds and sky. Matthew E. Adelson's lighting assists as time of day shifts. James Glossman's original direction allows the performers to move around just a bit so they're not affixed to one spot.
The repartee between Long and Lauria and the ease of their exquisite timing allow this piece, less than two hours in length, to succeed. The characters' mutual knowing sense makes it seem as if they've shared a park bench if not a stage forever. Those watching who are past life's midpoint of life will probably be most appreciative of Lauria's fluent scripting. He injects comic moments as the protagonists playfully spar with one another.
It would be nearly impossible for anyone who watched "The Wonder Years" to avoid at least a quick recall, for example, of Jack Arnold providing words of wisdom to his son, Kevin. Now, Lauria, with silver rather than dark hair, otherwise looks much the same. Long's Woman is attractive and engaging. After intermission, costumer George Veale provides her with elegant attire. During the second portion of the production, it is she who urges her "friend" to keep writing.
Dan Laurie shows fine command of language. It's not as if cliches and cornball phrasing is haphazard. Instead, this is a writer, aware of his intent, matching words with his thematic purpose.
Just Another Day does not conclude on a false or unrealistic note. One hopes these two will keep getting together to reflect upon old movies and even poke fun at each other, but there's no guarantee. The aging process cannot promise happiness, but the possibility of human connection is not broken. As long as the Man comes up with further Cary Grant references and the Woman formulates words with three and four syllables, life is maintained and individual paths move along.
Just Another Day runs through August 13, 2023, at Great Barrington Public Theater, Daniel Arts Center, McConnell Theater, on the campus of Bard College at Simon's Rock, 84 Alford Rd., Great Barrington MA. For tickets and information, please call 413-372-1980 or visit GreatBarringtonPublicTheater.org.