Extraordinary Performances in Ordinary Days

By Katie Pynes Anetsberger

Ordinary Days, Theatrix, April 20, 2023 7:30PM

At the end of my own ordinary day, I was honored to be a guest at the performance of Ordinary Days, put on by the entirely student-run organization Theatrix at UNL. As a former theatre student myself, I appreciated all of the hard work that these young professionals had put into this performance. I am continually impressed by the quality of theatre available in Lincoln, Nebraska, and this was no exception.

The performance space was new to me–just enter the first set of glass doors into the Temple Building, take the immediate elevator to the third floor, and voila, you’ve reached the Lab Theatre, which is black-box style. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: nothing beats black box theatre. The intimacy and interaction with the characters glosses over any imperfections, and creates a more immersive and authentic experience. The set was simple, but beautiful and effective and the subtle light cues contributed to the story in a beautiful way as well, especially in the last moment of the show. I definitely felt the energy of the students in all of the performers and crew, but also the audience which consisted mainly of students.

This was my first exposure to an Adam Gwon musical, and the style was light and fun, especially with its brief 80 minute run time. I laughed (loudly) throughout the show, but there were also moments of deep heartache and tenderness, which in my mind creates the perfect kind of theatre experience. Set in New York City, this story follows the ordinary day of just four characters, a serious couple, Claire (Teish Ngoi) and Jason (Adian Upton) and accidental friends Warren (Mon Darter) and Deb (Sydney Kwasa). Premiering in 2008 and set in NYC, this story is unsurprisingly affected by the tragedy of 9/11. I was personally touched by the fact that all students producing this show were most likely not born at the time of this tragedy, but chose to tell this story anyways. I also felt old.

Warren, an aspiring artist, who also is a cat-sitter for an incarcerated artist, starts out the show with some great laughs with his song “One, by One, by One.” Sit in the front row if you enjoy audience participation! Through a series of coincidences, Warren encounters a frustrated and volcanic grad student, Deb. Deb may have been my favorite character.  A disillusioned and begrudging literature student, Deb says it all in her first song “Don’t Wanna to be Here.”  The physical comedy of Deb, paired with the perfect comedic timing of Warren, had me belly laughing multiple times. I have to say a word about the pianist, turned barista, as well, who was not only an amazing musician, but also had me rolling with his ‘tip jar.’ You had to be there.

The other two characters, Claire (Teish Ngoi) and Jason (Adian Upton) are the more serious foil to Warren and Deb’s comedy pair. As they create a home together, both Jason and Claire are working through interior and past struggles. The character of Jason really came to life in his solo, “My Favorite Places,” as he longs for a deeper connection with Claire. Claire, played by Teish Ngoi, had a particularly beautiful voice and played the serious character with stunning emotion. Her pieces, “Gotta Get Out,” and “I’ll Be Here” were tear-jerkers for certain. 

This show left me thinking–is there any such thing as an ordinary day? As Deb wrestles with her ‘Big Picture,’ which it turns out, is making her miserable, I also considered mine. Is it that ‘Big Picture’ dream that makes our lives extraordinary, or is it the little things that we do in the everyday, like Warren sharing his art, that make the difference?

For the price of a large latte, you could spend your evening enjoying high-quality entertainment, so buy the coffee, but also head to the Lab Theatre– you won’t be disappointed!

If you go: Lab Theatre, Temple Building, 1209 R Street, 3rd Floor, Lincoln, NE. Friday, April 21st 7:30pm and Saturday, April 22nd at 2:00pm & 7:30pm.

Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for general admission, and they can be bought online at https://www.tix.com/ticket-sales/unltheatreandfilm/7104

Katie Pynes Anetsberger is an avid reader, aspiring writer, amateur artist and mother of three magical humans. A staunch supporter of the arts, she firmly believes, in the words of Dostoevsky “The world will be saved by beauty.”

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