Review: Linda McLean’s bold, insightful ‘Any Given Day’ makes U.S. premiere at the Magic
By Karen D’Souza • April 11, 2012
When you wake up in the morning, you may think you know what’s coming. But in reality “Any Given Day” can careen from the mundane to the momentous in a heartbeat.
Two slyly interlocking one-acts pop together like puzzle pieces in Linda McLean’s elusive new drama. This enigmatic portrait of existence captures the way people slog from one day to the next, barely noticing precious hours slipping by. It’s only in the big moments, when something terrible, or something wonderful, happens that we look at who were are with anything like clarity. That’s the kind of day that unfolds in this affecting post-modern tragicomedy, cleverly directed by Jon Tracy in its American premiere at San Francisco’s Magic Theatre.
McLean’s drama is set in rain-soaked Glasgow but the ideas she explores with such brutal candor are universal. The failure of the system to care for the weakest members of society, the alienation that cuts off people from their loved ones are themes that need no translation. The Scottish playwright’s boldness with form and structure also gives the play a feeling of timelessness.
The first act spins around the cozy little flat of Bill (Christopher McHale) and Sadie (Amy Kossow), a developmentally disabled couple thrust out of group care and into the rigors of independent living. Alas, not everyone in the community wants them around. So they must fend for themselves, carefully.
They can barely wait for a visit from their favorite person in the whole world, Bill’s niece Jackie. Brimming with anticipation, they bustle around, brewing tea and fondly bickering until the front door buzzes, but the caller isn’t Jackie.
Kossow movingly evokes the innocence of Sadie, who caroms from wide-eyed joy to red-faced rage like a toddler. She nails Sadie’s lack of a guile, the way her face falls when Bill is briefly unkind. She seems to transmit all her emotions fully.
McHale taps into Bill’s pride at being the more competent of the two. He pays the bills, goes to the store. He tries to protect Sadie from those who would hurt her. Not to ruin the suspense I’ll just say something happens to these two that makes you question the concept of civilization.
In the second act, McLean introduces us to Jackie (Stacy Ross), whose rare visits mean so much to Sadie and Bill. She may light up their day, but there’s little radiance in her own heart. She’s a nurse who gave up her profession to work as a barmaid. Stung by life’s disappointments, she’s shut down her capacity to dare.
A phone call from her troubled son leads her to bend the ear of her boss, Dave (James Carpenter). She’s looking for empathy but instead finds a glimmer of something she thought she would have to go without.
Carpenter and Ross are two of the best actors in the region, and their delivery of McLean’s spare poetry is a masterful exercise in subtlety and restraint. Jackie demurs, Dave pursues. They both surprise themselves. It’s an unexpectedly endearing courtship between two people old enough to have given up on the concept of wonder. The dawning sense of hope in the second act makes a stark counterpoint to the fragility of Act 1.
That tug of war between the ominous and the magical gives McLean’s writing its bite. Make no mistake, the awareness of life’s dissonance, mirrored in the structure and tone of this piece, can be unsettling, even jarring, but that’s the point. So can life.
Click here to read the review on the Mercury News website.
Any Given Day runs for a limited time! Get your tickets now!