Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Also see Richard's recent review of The Good Ship St. Louis
So it comes as a great surprise to see a kind of soulful fragility emerge from a quartet of young New Yorkers in a new production of 2008s Ordinary Days at Tesseract Theatre in St. Louis. A deep sense of romantic vulnerability pours out of a fine cast, led by director Elisabeth Wurm.
Adam Gwon wrote the music and lyrics for the sung-through show, which is set in 2005. And there seems to be an almost storybook quality to that particular moment, though it was only seventeen years ago. There are rudimentary flip phones, but no dating apps on smartphones. Turns out the old face-to-face element, of just arranging to meet someone in a museum or a coffee shop, adds more to a relationship than a sheaf of racy photos. Oh, nostalgia.
But there's not a drop of quaintness to be found in Ordinary Days, the first musical ever mounted by Tesseract Theatre, at the .Zack Theatre in Midtown St. Louis. It is 80 glorious minutes of hard-charging hopes and crashing romantic frustrations. Jacob Schmidt is delightfully effervescent as Warren, the SpongeBob made flesh, vainly attempting to hand out fliers on colorful paper to blank-faced passersby on a busy street. Lauren Tenenbaum is excellent as the feisty grad student Deb, who's lost her thesis notes, which are found by Warren, who's working as an artist's assistant. A meeting becomes inevitable.
The many realistic backdrops on stage are designed by producer Taylor Gruenloh, showing video footage projected on a big screen. And music director Zach Neumann is 100% on point as the show's keyboardist. The sound mix is just right, for those sitting up close. However, one particular repeated light cue was persistently slow on opening night (or perhaps the actors sped up, hitting their marks early in performance, coming down from an upstage platform again and again).
Michael Lowe and Brittani O'Connell are the sexy 30-ish couple. He (like Warren) is full of romance and idealism as Jason; while she (like Deb), is wary and territorial as Claire. Halfway into the evening, both couples find each other, after getting lost at the Museum of Modern Art: a setting that reminds us that discovering a harmonious shared outlook (on paintings, in this case) is fundamental to any lasting relationship.
And I found myself wishing the play would never end when Mr. Lowe sang "Hundred Story City," a song of great longing. I was also struck by Ms. O'Connell's confession of prior heartbreak, at being an early widow, when she filled the stage with a seminal dread, at starting a new love all over again. The show consistently hits the sweet spot between youth and experience, and love and warinessarticulated in both song and performance.
Ordinary Days runs through November 27, 2022, at the .Zack Theatre, 3224 Locust Street, just west of Compton Avenue, St. Louis MO. For more information please visit www.tesseracttheatre.com
Piano: Zack Neumann