Any Given Monday

by Bruce Graham
Directed by Bud Martin
Featuring Lauren Ashley Carter, Michael Mastro, Hillary B. Smith, Paul Michael Valley
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street
October 12, 2011 — November 6, 2011
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Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
October 11, 2011 

(L-R) Paul Michael Valley and Michael Mastro. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

A middle-aged married couple in Philadelphia has hit an impasse of infidelity.  Event planner wife Risa (Hillary B. Smith) has been having an affair with a rich guy and has just moved out of her suburban home and 25 years of marriage.  For the first act of this play that might benefit from an intermission-less flow, Risa speaks to us (as proxy for a girlfriend) over a cocktail reporting on her recent decision.  School teacher husband Lenny (Paul Michael Valley) is home, watching the movie of single parenthood and firm convictions and loving children he loves to teach,To Kill A Mockingbird, and trying to forget what has just happened that has taken him completely by surprise.  College-aged daughter Sarah (Lauren Ashley Carter) speaks to us as a narrator and commentator and occasionally joins the stage action, a bit full of herself, often mispronouncing the Latin phrases she as an undergraduate philosophy major probably should know how to pronounce. Lenny’s old pal Mickey (Michael Mastro) who works for the city subway system and shares Lenny’s penchant for watching Monday night football and drinking (Lenny screwdrivers and Mickey beers), is a little unhinged and takes action to help solve Lenny’s marital crisis.  Mastro’s masterful delivery of comedic riffs are the purest moments in the flow of this experience.  And in the second act it is Mickey who takes over Risa’s place at a bar table, talking to us as a commentator from the sidelines — the “Boo Radley” who helps keep Lenny’s family together.

Playwright Graham purports to ask of us as audience members: what would we do when the chips are down.  How far would we go to save our marriage, our relationship, our life.  What happens in this case with this story is a comedy of errors, a morality tale with all the costs removed (misdeeds have been done or will be perceived to have been done by others).  The only costs we’re left with here are: what can you live with having done?

In Harper Lee‘s novel (and Horton Foote‘s screenplay) of To Kill a Mockingbird, the hero Atticus Finch personifies moral rectitude — the small town southern lawyer and single father of two children who stands up to 1930s prejudice and defends a black man falsely accused of sexual misconduct with a white woman.  Gentle parenting, quiet strength, endurer of past pain (the death of his wife), and source of solace to family and community.  When characters in Any Given Monday seek resolution to their problems, the costs are unclear and the moral framework for them even murkier.  Whose moral compass pertains in this case — what you can get away with (through prejudice and dark of night and leaving evidence in a distant lower class neighborhood), or what you know to be the right thing to do?

This may be a comedy or may be a tragedy.  For me the most violent acts committed in this play are against the memory of the novel and the movie To Kill A Mockingbird.

© Martha Wade Steketee (October 13, 2011)

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