Though its basic premise sounds like the ultimate cliché—four young people navigating life and love in New York City—there is nothing predictable about Ordinary Days. Instead, the lovely chamber musical perfectly captures the uncertainty and bravery of making choices and taking risks, with a clever score by Adam Gwon that’s a little bit Sondheim, a little bit Jason Robert Brown, and a whole lot of charming.
It’s the perfect choice to announce Our Productions, a new theater company, to Dallas. Originally formed in 1993 but recently rebooted by Stephanie Riggs, Brad Baker, and Mark Mullino, Our Productions plans to focus on “new works, little-known shows, and re-imaginings of hit productions.” Small and scrappy with a big heart, both the show and the company possess a clear vision that’s elegantly executed with thoughtful choices.
After previewing last month at the MCL Grand in Lewisville, Ordinary Days lands in Addison at the Studio Theatre. Never has the black box space felt so vast, as Scott Kirkham’s vertical panels sketched with city scenes convey urbanity while establishing the immensity of NYC. Powerfully lit by Julie Simmons, the setting is playful yet functional, hopping from cramped apartments to bustling streets to even the Met Museum.
The four characters are paired to demonstrate how fate intervenes, and how even in such a large city your choices can impact someone else’s life. The optimistic Warren (Matthew Silar) spends his days handing out brightly colored pamphlets stamped with inspirational sayings. The only person to ever take one voluntarily is Deb (Juliette Talley), a directionless grad student. When Warren finds her lost thesis notes, the two meet up and tentatively form an opposites-attract friendship. Talley’s prickly comic timing and Silar’s earnest likability keep the characters from feeling trite or overly saccharine.
Meanwhile, Jason (David Price) and Claire (Sarah Elizabeth Smith) are moving in together after a year of dating. His dogged enthusiasm that he’s making the right choice and her hesitation to invite someone into her life so intimately are instantly relatable, giving the pair a real-life edge that sidesteps predictable romance. Smith, especially, is mesmerizing as the closed-off Claire.
Accompanied offstage by Mark Mullino on keyboard, the extremely talented cast nails Gwon’s expressive and often cheekily funny score. Stephanie Riggs’ direction avoids predictable caricatures, making this production 85 minutes of pure joy.