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All In Productions' Inspirational 'Ordinary Days'

Mar. 29, 2016
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Photo by Mark Frohna

“We all have choices within our lives, but we rarely take that one risk that could alter our lives forever. Why is that?” asks J.T. Backes in his director’s notes for All In Productions’ Ordinary Days. It’s a question that inspires you to pause and reflect on your current life situation—perhaps makes you curious about certain dreams and desires you haven’t explored yet. Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days has a similar effect—it catches you off guard in the best of ways, motivating you to think about the ideas of accepting change and overcoming the fear of its consequences. It also delves into how we connect, either explicitly or unexpectedly, with other people and our surroundings. Before the show began on opening night, Backes shared with the audience: “If the opportunity of knowledge falls into your laps, feel free to take it with you.” It absolutely does.

The setting is New York City, beautifully rendered by scenic designer Burt Gross in two levels of silhouetted skyline: a versatile lower level easily rearranged to create different locations, and a raised stationary level resembling a balcony high above the city. Thoughtful lighting by Alan Piotrowicz highlights the production along with stellar keyboard accompaniment by music director Patrick Thompson. The production opens with individual introductions by the four characters themselves, from which we gain insight on their current situations in New York and their distinct personalities. The cast uses a mix of song and talk-singing to great effect throughout and provides an often humorous yet fully developed character portrayal. Gwon’s quartet harmonization is powerful, the lyrics are stirring and the plot development is excellent.

Dan Tellez is a delight to watch as Warren, an energetic, high-on-life pioneer of visual art who is becoming frustrated about going unnoticed in a city he declares is “devoid of any soul.” Warren is full of thoughtful, philosophic reflections and seeks to find stories and create possibilities in everything—such as a photograph he finds of a couple on a beach and an unopened Valentine’s Day card, wondering, “Are the people aware they have lost pieces of their life story?” Tellez delivers with immense depth and genuine optimism while also realistically portraying periodic exasperation. 

Portraying Deb, Jade Taylor is a young woman of fiery, sensational dynamism who has her “five-year plan” but isn’t quite sure how she’s supposed to get there, always feeling her dreams to discover and fulfill are never where she is—not in the small cul-de-sac she escaped from, not in New York City or too-calm New Jersey. Deb and Warren’s unexpected inspiration on one another is a treat to watch and really embodies the idea that all it can take is one person to transform your outlook on life. 

As Jason, Billy Krager provides a nuanced, engrossing portrayal of a man in love and afraid to take on New York City alone. He’s ready to get rid of the space between him and his girlfriend by moving into her apartment. Krager’s vocals are especially fine. Beth Leinss as Claire, Jason’s girlfriend, is trying to accept change. She’s going through items in her apartment preparing for Jason’s move-in and tries to assure herself that “life must be more than the sum of this stuff.” She’s attempting to let go of the past “packed in boxes just in case,” but she’s having serious difficulty for reasons we find out later in Leinss’ gorgeous solo, “I’ll be here.” Leinss and Krager’s dynamic is moving and reminds us that sometimes we have to move forward from our past journeys to begin a new one.

 

Through April 3 at Tenth Street Theatre, 628 N. 10th St. For tickets, call 414-732-0347 or visit allin-mke.com.

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