EXTENDED THROUGH APRIL 29
Christopher McHale is Bill and Amy Kossow is Sadie in the Magic Theatre production of Any Given Day by Linda McLean. Below: James Carpenter is Dave and Stacy Ross is Jackie. Photos by Jennifer Reiley
Linda McLean’s Any Given Day, now having its American premiere at the Magic Theatre, is theater for grown-ups. There’s nothing fanciful or sensational about. It’s basically duet conversations in two acts and less than 90 minutes. But the richness of McLean’s language, seemingly so simple yet so precise in defining the characters and their relationships to each other and to the world.
The pain and sadness is palpable in these people, yet so are the passing moments of joy and kindness and good humor. McLean’s world is full of the kind of emotional upheaval you only get to see when you spend time with people and see what’s really happening with them under their reasonably calm, reasonably functional exterior selves. To catch glimpses of the real turmoil underneath is an astonishing achievement, and that’s what McLean and this powerful production manage to accomplish.
Directed with subtlety and precision by Jon Tracy, Any Given Day revels in the simple complexity of everyday life. The first half introduces us to Bill (Christopher McHale) and Sadie (Amy Kossow), two residents of Glasgow council housing. The more we learn about them, the more we see that they’ve probably spent time institutionalized or under some sort of supervision but are now living on their own.
We also learn what kind and genuinely sweet people they are, how tender they are with each other when they’re able and how their partnership forms a sort of protective blockade from the world outside their windows. Kossow’s performance is especially poignant – her Sadie is clearly damaged in some key ways, but her moments of panic, terror and anger are balanced by washes of happiness that make her giggle and shine like a little girl.
McLean introduces an element of danger into this cocoon, and from that moment on, the play becomes quite different. The valiant efforts of Sadie and Bill to organize their day and make preparations for a visitor are suddenly underscored by a growing sense of dread. It’s a fascinating thing because we find ourselves feeling protective of these characters we’ve only just met, yet there’s nothing we can do for them.
In the second half, we’re in another part of Glasgow at a bar (authentic and efficient sets by Michael Locher lit with restraint and realism by York Kennedy) where the owner, Dave (James Carpenter) and his newish employee of three months, Jackie (Stacy Ross), are having a chat. Their whole relationship unfolds from the sharing of a phone message, and they find themselves suddenly in the midst of an intimate conversation over a bottle of Sancerre.
The two halves are related most significantly by dramatic irony. We have information that will affect Bill and Jackie but once again are powerless to do anything but watch them, in their unknowingness, as they delve into topics of sex and family and what makes a good day. Carpenter and Ross deliver their customary insightful, beautifully honed performances, but Ross find heartbreaking depth in a woman feeling herself slide ever closer to just giving up.
All the actors in the cast, including Patrick Alparone filling in for Daniel Petzold in a small but important role, are so focused and strong. They even manage believable Scottish accents, which is no small feat in itself. Restraint and reality rule in this everyday world, but passions are present, too. There’s violence and heroism in large and small ways on this Given Day, and it’s an absolutely phenomenal thing to experience. This is an unusual play in that it feels complete yet unfinished because, somehow, it’s still going on. The play lingers in memory to be sure, but it feels these people are still out there affecting each others’ lives in ways they’ll never know and just trying to make it through another day.
I talked to rising Bay Area director Jon Tracy (and the people who love him) for a feature in the San Francisco Chronicle. Read the story here.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Linda McLean’s Any Given Day continues an extended run through April 29 at the Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street, San Francisco. Tickets are $20-$60. Call 415-441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org.