There’s something to be said about the current state of the world. It seems more bad things are happening, and most of us are lost in the middle. That sense of helpless solitude is at the heart of Bruce Graham’s dark and satirical play, Any Given Monday, now being presented at Plays & Players Theatre.
In the spirit of films like Crash, this brave, world premiere production – produced by the always jaw-dropping Theatre Exile company – assesses what it means to live in 2010. We first meet Sarah, played by Genevieve Perrier, a young philosophy major who talks about her dad’s affinity for the film To Kill a Mockingbird. Sarah’s father, Lenny, played by Joe Canuso, has watched the film hundreds of times and always ends up crying at the end. When asked why, he simply says, “because I’ll never be as good as Atticus Finch.” That statement, however melodramatic it may be, gives a glimpse into the moral calamity that is about to ensue.
Lenny’s wife recently left him for an arrogant man named Frank, who builds Wal-Marts for a living. He seems to be everything Lenny is not, leaving our hero, if you will, depressed and alone. That is, until his old pal Mickey comes bursting in to watch the weekly football game. Mickey, played with courageous ferocity by Pete Pryor, has been hardened over the years by his job in the tunnels of Philadelphia’s subways. He speaks in profane, far-from-politically-correct language. But in a way, the audience can’t blame Mickey – he’s seen it all. And when a colleague commits suicide after four homeless people jumped in front of the train he was driving, it’s difficult not to understand his distaste for the homeless.
Soon, the audience members find there’s more to the story than a breakup and an overuse of monologues. It turns out Mickey killed Frank only hours earlier. He planned every detail out and ended Frank’s life. Lenny is repulsed, and Sarah, who eavesdrops on their conversation, is infuriated. It all ends up in a whirlwind of moral questions too abstract to be taken seriously.
It seems Graham couldn’t figure out what the play would be about and, instead, used an unnecessarily shocking climax to prove a point. Harriet Power’s direction, however, gives the play its realism.
Set entirely in the den of Lenny’s Philadelphia home, the drama of the play is intimate and, at times, abrupt.
Tackling issues like infidelity, morality, anger and ultimately love is no easy task. To touch into the current dilemmas of a vastly modern society is what art – especially playwriting – is all about, and Graham’s play does just that with the intensity of a semiautomatic. While Any Given Monday crams too much into its dissection, its mesmerizing cast, fantastic design and incredible direction take the audience on a ride from sadness to murder in a modern American family portrait.
Max McCormack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.