This charming, unpretentious chamber musical about four young people singing their love/hate relationship to New York City is that rare thing in the world of musical theater: an intimate, modest pleasure. With genuinely melodic music and smart, rhyming lyrics, both by Adam Gwon, Ordinary Days, currently running Off-Broadway on Theatre Row, offers four fine singers backed by a piano and an oboe and a bass (music director John Bell).
Ordinary Days also offers an engrossing narrative: Deb (Sarah Lynn Marion, the standout among the strong cast) has left her small-town home (significantly, her family lives on a cul de sac) to come to New York and, predictably, go to grad school. The story really begins when she loses her note-crammed book with all her dissertation work in it, and Warren (Kyle Sherman), a house-sitter for an artist who’s in jail, finds it. Forget any meet-cute expectation this suggests.
Meanwhile, Claire (Whitney Bashor — you may remember her from Light in the Piazza at PTC — has a voice too Broadway for this role) and Jason (Marc DelaCruz) have taken the big step of moving in together after a year of dating. She is the least sympathetic of the four characters, but our minds change once we learn the source of her chilliness.
Central to the show’s imagery is the Metropolitan Museum, as each couple reveals themselves by their taste in paintings. The fugue “ Saturday at the Met” launches both the relationships and the ideas that, like Monet’s impressionistic dabs, New Yorkers are just dots, especially if, like Deb and Warren, you’re standing on a hundred-story building, looking down.
There is no more New Yorker-ish longing than the longing for “Calm” — a great song that had the young New Yorker-ish audience chuckling knowingly: all the aggravation when the subways break down, the lack of sunlight, the lack of closets, the general freaking out.
There is lots of beautiful imagery in the dialogue and the lyrics, all suggested rather than shown. Jonathan Silverstein gracefully directs the onstage/offstage comings and goings — he lets the actors and their voices carry the show, without any set changes (or sets, for that matter). The show resolves after 90 minutes, having completely persuaded me of the reality of its musical world.
Through Nov. 17. Keen Company at the Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row, 410 42nd Street, New York.