New Helvetia Theatre's sparkling production of Adam Gwon's satisfying "Ordinary Days" has so many charms it's hard to know where to begin.
Set in contemporary New York, the funny and dramatic sung-through chamber musical has a bright, unaffected grasp of modern life, which for its characters is vibrantly comic, sad and hopeful.
Gwon, who wrote the music and lyrics, creates a recognizable, up-to-the-minute city-life narrative, effectively knitting together two separate but complementary story lines involving four characters.
Whether it's ordering a latte, wandering the Met or negotiating the proper wine for a fish dinner, Gwon gets the details right without overplaying his hand.
Early on it seems like this just might be a story about young adults struggling in the big city, and while it is, Gwon continually deepens the characters with the natural twists and turns of people searching for connections to something or somebody.
Connor Mickiewicz's cheerful Warren works as an artist's assistant house-sitting and feeding the cat. Warren spends his days walking the streets of Manhattan handing out fliers with sayings he's printed on them, such as "KINDNESS IS A VIRTUE THAT IS OFTEN IGNORED." He's basically ignored by the busy passers-by.
Warren becomes linked to Kiera Anderson's harried Deb after he finds her daily planner stuffed with notes on her stalled thesis about Virginia Woolf. The splendid timing and rapport between Mickiewicz and Anderson (they are brother and sister) gives the burgeoning platonic friendship between their characters an engaging depth.
The second couple, Tristan Rumery's Jason and Courtney Glass' Claire, are on opposite paths. Though Jason has just moved into Claire's apartment, they both are realizing there's a significant emotional space between them. As much as Jason tries reaching out to her, Claire pulls away.
Mickiewicz, who also thoughtfully directed, has cast the show expertly with longtime colleagues, and all the performances are exquisitely modulated for the New Helvetia's space. None of the fine singers uses amplification, and the natural sound enhances the intimacy of the production with only Erik Daniells' solo piano as accompaniment. Maggie Hollinbeck added musical direction, and though the songs are not terrifically distinct compositions, there's enough variation to go with the brilliant lyrics, which continually push the story forward.
What works so well in this graceful production, though, are the beautifully realized characters who are trying as best they can for simple, meaningful lives and the depths of honest emotion they give to the audience.
What: New Helvetia Theatre presents Adam Gwon's new chamber musical "Ordinary Days
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays, through March 30
Where: The New Helvetia Theatre, 1028 R St., Sacramento
Tickets: $20 and $30
Information: (916) 469-9850 or www.newhelvetia.org
Time: 90 minutes, no intermission. Call The Bee's Call The Bee's Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.