Acclaimed local playwright Bruce Graham returns toTheatre Exile with Any Given Monday (now onstage at Plays & Players Theater), a sport-themed world premiere geared to ride the success of his popular The Philly Fan. Unlike that playful tribute to the long-suffering Philadelphia sports fan, this darkly funny play explores truly life and death issues: infidelity, murder, and which team to support when the Giants play the Cowboys.
The action takes place in a tidy living room somewhere in an affluent Philadelphia suburb (set design by Dirk Durosette). Lenny (Joe Canuso), an impeccably righteous middle school English teacher, is watching To Kill A Mockingbird for the 200th time (Atticus Finch is his hero) and moping because Risa (Catharine Slusar), his wife, has left him for a sleazy real estate agent.
Graham’s script drags somewhat as Risa and her and Lenny’s philosophy student daughter Sarah (Genevieve Perrier) provide side-stage narration that would have been better developed by onstage action, but the arrival of uncouth SEPTA worker Mickey to cheer Lenny up brings the play to life. Two-time Barrymore winner Pete Pryor makes a bid for a third award with his tour de force performance as this hilariously Philadelphian character who provides all of Any Given Monday’s best moments. Mickey’s tries to invigorate his sullen friend by turning on Monday Night Football (his solution to the Giants versus Cowboys dilemma: hope a plane lands in the middle of the field), fixing up some super strong cocktails, and delivering some astonishing news that will rock Lenny’s solid moral code.
In Mickey and Lenny, Graham has created a perfect duo: a loud mouthed, non-politically correct, working class straight-shooter, ready to leap to action, and his laissez-faire, studiously professional foil. Pryor and Canuso’s natural back-and-forth (a reprise of their work in last year’s American Buffalo) challenges our stereotypes as it brings to life questions of philosophy, right and wrong, and the essence of friendship. But if Graham has the regular Joe Philly sports fan down to a tee, his characterizations of a troubled female philosophy student and her philandering mother seem slightly off-key. Never mind, whenever the action slows or the plot seems just a little too neat, Mickey returns to bring life to the production.
Any Given Monday is a co-production by Theatre Exile, who will run it all this month, and Ambler’s Act II Playhouse, where it will run (with a slightly different cast: Graham himself as Lenny) during March. In this staging, Theatre Exile artistic director Canuso treads the boards under the direction of Act II artistic director Harriet Power. It is a collaboration that makes sense for both companies, splitting the cost of development while attracting two established audiences to the same production. In this staging, Act II is well supported in the Montgomery County suburbs, but its isolated location limits its draw; perhaps this staging will encourage city dwellers to make the train ride to this regional theater. For now, don’t miss the chance to catch Any Given Monday here in Philadelphia.
Any Given Monday by Bruce Graham
Theatre Exile and Act II Playhouse
at Plays & Players Theater (1714 Delancey St.)
through February 28, 2010
at Act II Playhouse (56 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, PA)
recommended for mature audiences
Published by Philly2Philly.