Tipping Point's 'Ordinary Days' Isn't Your Ordinary Musical

By Jenn McKee

The intimate musical now playing at Tipping Point Theatre may be titled "Ordinary Days," but the production is hardly run-of-mill.

Focused on four New Yorkers - an assistant to an incarcerated artist; a frustrated grad student; and a couple struggling to adjust to living together - the 90-minute, intermission-free musical shows how they affect and alter each other's life, sometimes without even meeting.

Adam Gwon created the show's music and lyrics, and the latter clearly outshine the former. For the songs' words do wonders to establish character and progress the story, often in witty, surprising and poignant ways. The music, meanwhile, is pleasant enough, but the songs tend to blend all together, making none of them particularly memorable.

They are, however, pretty well performed (minus very occasional pitch issues at Sunday's matinee performance) by TPT's strong cast. Eric Gutman and Sonja Marquis play the show's couple, Jason and Claire, who feel as though they're growing apart, despite the fact that they've just moved in together. One of the best scenes between the two is "Fine," which shows their characters, already feeling anxious about the relationship, gently tearing at each other about bringing the right wine to a dinner party ("Fine, I'll bring the red/ You bring the white/ That way I'll still get drunk/ You'll still be right"), and about what route the taxi should take. The humor, sadness and truth of the number speak volumes to the sense of estrangement that entraps them.

Christopher L. Tucker, playing the artist's assistant, takes what could be a twee role and makes Warren plucky and charming - particularly in scenes when Warren's a bit maddeningly sunny. And the comical contrast between Warren and caustic grad student Deb, played by Kryssy Becker, is absolutely priceless. Though Becker's character is familiar - the fenced-in small-town girl who comes to New York to become something bigger or better than she would have been in her hometown - the way she performed numbers like "Dear Professor Thompson/Life Story" drew me in by way of laughter and compassion. By show's end, Deb was the character I connected to most.

Director Brian P. Sage ensures that this intimate musical fills, but doesn't overload, Tipping Point's intimate space, bringing out both the show's humor and its gentle, sometimes subtle insights into humanity. Plus, in a sung-through show where clarity is king, music director Jeremy Ryan Mossman does outstanding work, letting even the slightest nuances shine through, and providing wholly unobtrusive, sensitive accompaniment onstage.

Joel Klain's set design, with Dana Naughton's props design, features graffiti, hanging road signs, a large, framed, painted cityscape, a mini-fire escape, a ventilation pipe and more, providing a kind of mashed-up, versatile urban playground. Suzanne Young's costume design affectingly informs our sense of the characters, particularly where Deb is concerned. And Chantel Pascente's lighting design thoughtfully guides our focus, so that we don't miss even the smallest moment.

And "Ordinary Days" is a show with a lot of small moments - but two big moments, one visual, one revelatory, come near the end, and both hit the mark beautifully.

Strangely, despite the modest scope of the show, I was reminded of "Avenue Q" several times while watching "Ordinary." Though "Ordinary" is far less snarky than "Q" (and has neither puppets nor gleeful crudeness), both shows feature a handful of young New Yorkers trying to find themselves in the middle of an overwhelming crowd.

And you don't have to be a New Yorker to relate to that.


'Ordinary Days'

Tipping Point Theatre, 361 E. Cady St., Northville. Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 9, plus Wednesday, Nov. 28. $29-$32. 248-347-0003. http://www.tippingpointtheatre.com

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