When the love of your life walks out on you for someone else, there are the socially acceptable things one does to mourn the relationship, like sit around in your sweats, pine away in front of the television and eat junk food. There are also the unspoken things—perhaps, even, the terrible things—we may fantasize about doing, either to get even or to win that person back. Of course, we’d never act upon these things…or would we? The New York premiere of Bruce Graham’s dark comedy Any Given Monday asks us just how far we’d be willing to go.
Lenny (Paul Michael Valley) is a loyal husband, father and teacher—a mensch if ever there was one. When his wife Risa (Hillary B. Smith) decides to leave their modern Philadelphian-Jewish family for a wealthy playboy, Lenny consoles himself with pizza delivery, Monday night football and multiple viewings of To Kill a Mockingbird. Lenny’s longtime friend Mickey (Michael Mastro) drops by to watch the game after his SEPTA shift and offers what he thinks is the solution to all of Lenny’s problems. Mastro delivers a memorable performance of this lovable sociopath with hysterical nuance. Lauren Ashley Carter rounds out the cast with her superb comic timing as Sarah, Lenny and Risa’s cynical philosophy-spouting daughter and our narrator. The ensemble is a pleasure to watch and director Bud Martin wisely grounds the cast in strong relationships, allowing the outrageous events that transpire an opportunity to seem possible.
Graham has written a wickedly smart comedy, political correctness be damned. Family, religion, prejudice, murder, suicide and football—nothing is off the table. In the middle of this glorious mess is Lenny, who must come to terms with the possible implications of what has transpired and then decide which path he will take. I personally had a hard time believing Risa would respond in the way that she does to Lenny’s confession at the end; it felt a bit as through Graham may have been trying to tie things up in a neat little bow. That said, another response may have taken this out of the realm of comedy. To say much more would ruin the delight of discovering some major plot points; I enjoyed hearing the house gasp as much as I did watching the production.
Set designer Dirk Durossette and props master Jeena Yoon together create a well-appointed suburban home in warm earth tones complete with hardwoods and exposed brick, ceramics displayed on the bookshelves and a bevy of remotes littering Risa’s beloved coffee table. While dress is modern and could have easily been pulled from any of these actors’ closets, costume designer Bobby Pearce heightens each of the characters' values through the careful application of details, from Mickey’s bits of job-issued uniform to Risa’s understated but elegant jewelry.
Jacob Subotnick adds a crucial layer to the proceedings with sound, artfully weaving cell phone chimes, doorbells, and classic film sound clips with the low-level drone of a televised football game. Lighting designer Paul Miller does a fine job recreating the feel of suburban recessed lighting. He also lends additional structure, defining a neutral playing space with a light box window and lighting the actors with specials during moments of narration and monologues taken to unseen stage partners.
While the show is dark on Mondays at 59E59 Theatre, I encourage you to see Any Given Monday on any other given day while it is running through November 6.