Relephant’s “Ordinary Days” Packs an Extraordinary Punch

Warren (Stephen Greenfield) and Deb (Jennie Neumann). Photo: Jessie van Rijn

Warren (Stephen Greenfield) and Deb (Jennie Neumann). Photo: Jessie van Rijn

If you have a case of the Januaries (Christmas is over, winter’s still here, it’s dark, it’s cold, it’s wet, you’re back at work and your New Year’s resolutions are already broken), Relephant Theatre‘s production of Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days may be just what you need. A tight and funny chamber musical about life in the Big Apple, Ordinary Days celebrates the very, well, ordinariness that can make city life such a drag sometimes.

A good show starts with a good script, and the folks at Relephant Theatre have picked something special. Gwon’s touching and humourous vignettes could describe life in any North American city, and this is where the script’s strength lies. There is very little in the play that I couldn’t relate to–the search for calm in a busy metropolis, apartment life (and trying to find space for all your junk), being late and stuck in traffic–and I was surprised by the way this relatability managed to tease tears from my eyes again and again (by this I mean I was actually crying a little bit through most of the play. About nothing more extraordinary than ordinary life). I was also laughing a lot–a sung e-mail from a harried grad student (Jennie Neumann) to her thesis supervisor was a particular highlight.

A play so focused on celebrating the mundane needs to work very hard to avoid cliche. Gwon does an terrific job of this right up until the end, where unfortunately an emotionally manipulative plot twist sticks out like a sore thumb. The play already had me by the heartstrings and I really hadn’t needed the extra pull. I felt alienated instead of drawn in, and removed from the ordinariness that had made the script so compelling in the first place. This is, however, a minor and personal quibble in a play that is overall so incredibly enjoyable.

Based on the two Relephant productions I’ve seen (The Exquisite Hour was a delight last spring) and my conversations with co-producer Jessie van Rijn, Relephant Theatre is a company that never bites off more than it can chew. Its productions are thematically whimsical, technically tight (even on a shoestring budget), and lovingly performed. You won’t be pushed into the obscene or completely obscure (if that’s your thing), but you will enjoy your night at the theatre.

What more could you ask for from an ordinary day?

Ordinary Days runs in the Large Studio at Carousel Theatre (1411 Cartwright Street, Granville Island) until January 19. Tickets are available at the door (cash only) or online through Brown Paper Tickets.

Logistical tip: For this production, the Carousel Studio is set up with chairs and stools. The stools provide a more unique view, but if you require back support you should stick the chairs in the risers.

Disclosure: I was asked to review Relephant Theatre’s production of Ordinary Days and provided comps by the company. I also have a friendly professional relationship with Jessie van Rijn through her past work at the Carousel Theatre Company. At no point was I asked for a positive review.

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