Fine Company for “Just Another Day”
Two seeming strangers named Man and Woman encounter one another in a park and begin speaking familiarly quickly after meeting. Their dialogue picks up a rhythm and lines answer each other as repartee. Some lines amuse, some tease, some puzzle. They talk of his possible or eventual spending the night with her last night and tonight. They talk of old movies with a particular fondness for Cary Grant and seem to enjoy each other’s company a great deal and consequently so do we. It’s a mildly entertaining tease of greater significance going on underneath and when things get too heated or they come into physical contact with each other you hear an offstage bell warning them to separate.
Shadowland Stages and the director James Glossman have scored another celebrity coup this year after their collaboration on Tom Hank’s play “Safe Home” last year. “Just Another Day” is written by and stars Dan Lauria who played the father on the television series “The Wonder Years.” Starring opposite him is Patty McCormack who was Oscar nominated for her role in “The Bad Seed.” Ms. McCormack is a last-minute replacement and appears on stage with a script in hand.
The play has the audience grasping for clues as to who the characters are to each other, what they want from each other and where the play is set and what is at stake with their interaction. The dialogue indicates that we are in an ever present now and there is nothing more than the exchange of words. No past, no future, just two elderly people stitching together a conversation on a park bench under the watchful eye of a minder with a bell. Occasionally, they step downstage into a spotlight and offer their version of a standups jokes which rely heavily on the trials of marriage or ethnic stereotyping. “Two Irishman walk past a bar…what? It could happen.”
They must be Alzheimer’s patients but as everyone in the audience who has experience with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, and I would suspect that’s nearly everyone, there is something missing in this portrayal. The fear, the grasping and struggle for relevance and significance, for meaning seems to be missing. Everything is kept sprightly and enjoyable. Sure, there are flashes of anger, mostly at the woman with the bell, but until the final scene which sees the Woman roll on in a wheelchair there is no progression in the play. Finally, with the closing scene we see a change in circumstance and unfortunately it is sadly one of decay.
Dan Lauria, as everyone knows, is a most welcome presence. Gruff without being overbearing and he uses his size welcome you in, never to threaten. He has flashes of anger, shared joy and deep concern; his solicitude to Woman is palpable.
Patti McCormack has a prim, officious manner at first but she’s great fun to have around and it is truly incredible how much she wrings out of this script while still being on book. The opening of the second act when she spits out “There are people in this world who should die” made me think we were dealing with another character entirely.
The scenic design is by the brilliant Justin and Christopher Swader who offer us a most welcoming corner of park with a cloud filled blue sky framed behind the actors. Lighting design is by Daisy Long and the appropriate and attractive costumes are by Bettina Bierly.
Time spent with a loved one who will probably not remember your visit five minutes after its over becomes an exercise in being fully open to the present. There are many smiles, laughs and feelings evoked by “Just Another Day” that make the time pass pleasantly.
“Just Another Day” runs through 6/18. Tickets: www.shadowlandstages.org or 845-647-5511