Four people. One day. Countless opportunities for screwing up.
In the English-language World Premiere of A Day, written by Québecoise playwright Gabrielle Chapdelaine and translated by Josephine George, four seemingly unconnected individuals narrate each other's day. We watch as the four characters roll out of bed (or stay there), prep for the day, head to work, interact with coworkers, navigate relationships, and return home. One man grapples with an estranged relationship while another succumbs to an overwhelming urge to visit his childhood home. One woman's need for human appreciation drives her to desperate measures; another struggles to pierce the fog of depression and insomnia. A single day in the life contains humor, joy, embarrassment, and heartache, all bundled into one messy pile.
Presented by Cherry Artists' Collective and directed by Wendy Dann, A Day streams from the historic State Theatre in Ithaca, NY, blending live performance with video effects and prerecorded footage (Samuel Buggeln directs the video mise en scène). Karl Gregory, Jahmar Ortiz, Erica Steinhagen, and Sylvie Yntema star in this isolated cross-section of the human experience, a string of moments held under a poetic microscope.
An energetic cast brings a delightful script to pulsing, exuberant life. There are moments of sweet, poignant comedy, such as when one character, almost with tears in her eyes, sincerely thanks a grocery store clerk. In one priceless scene, Sylvia Yntema's character picks up a phone left by her coworker and has a hilarious, pathetic conversation over text with her coworker's friend. In another, Erica Steinhagen's character has a joyful awakening after downing hundreds of vitamins.
Corresponding moments of despair punctuate these comedies, such as when a woman explains to her once partner (played by Karl Gregory) that she only wants him to leave her voicemails from now on, so it will be like they're "writing letters" to each other. It's surprisingly easy to sympathize with these characters, especially in our current circumstances. They yearn for connection, purpose, understanding. At the bottom of it all, we sense, they just want to be loved.
Jahmar Ortiz is especially delightful to watch, perhaps because his character is the most vivacious. In the office, he announces in a loud voice that he's leaving, and when his coworker asks, "Where are you going?" He responds with a sweeping gesture, in a stately voice: "To buy cream of wheat!" At home, he fills online shopping carts with unnecessary, expensive items, then, his eyes popping with impetuous joy, decides to buy them all.
In the end, what matters more than the characters' failure to connect are their attempts to try. The play is peppered with references to classic and modern movies, ways for the characters to make sense of their lives and contextualize their struggles. But the playwright's final wish is to watch a new, as yet unmade movie, one that looks different for each of us, but one that we can, at the end of a long stretch of isolation and existential loneliness, enjoy together.
A Day is streaming live Nov 13 to 21 from The Cherry Artists Collective.