nytheatre.com review by Gyda Arber
January 21, 2006
One can’t turn on the news nowadays without hearing about the red state/blue state debate that’s dividing our country. So what happens when this divide occurs not between states, but between a husband and wife? This is the issue Leslie Ayvazian attempts to illuminate in her new play, Lovely Day.
When Brian, a typical suburban teenager unsure about his direction in life, comes home to announce that military recruiters are taking residence in the halls of his high school, he ends up sparking a political debate that could well end his parents’ marriage. His father, Martin, served his country in the Vietnam War, but, as a desk officer, saw no real combat. Brian’s mother, Fran, has been hiding (sublimating?) her political views for years, but is forced to express them when faced with the possibility that her son could join the military and lose his life fighting in a war she doesn’t believe in. Fran’s romantic views, including putting peace recruitment tables next to the military recruiting tables in Brian’s high school, are uplifting and comical, though incredibly frustrating to her husband. Ayvazian’s script effectively captures the nuance and pacing of a building conflict: over three scenes her characters begin to explore issues but quickly drop them when things become too uncomfortable until the climactic argument at the end of the play.
The cast executes the script beautifully—one would be hard pressed to find this caliber of acting on any New York stage for the 25-dollar ticket price. Deirdre O’Connell charms as the slightly ditzy peacenik mother, all the while constantly rearranging the living-room furniture. David Rasche effectively portrays the struggle of a rational man caught between his political views and his love for his wife, and Javier Picayo makes an impressive stage debut as the son who binds the couple together. Director Blair Brown masterfully paces each moment of the play, utilizing the excellent cast to the utmost of their abilities.
In the end, though, Ayvazian’s script disappoints. Her dialogue is lyrical, her sense of character true. The parallel she draws between power and gender roles evidences a sophisticated understanding of her topic. Yet Lovely Day fails to illuminate anything for its audience. Brian isn’t really in any danger, nor is his parents’ marriage—it’s clear that Fran and Martin, though struggling, will work through their difficulties. And their familiar arguments certainly failed to cause this audience member to re-evaluate anything. Perhaps Lovely Day would have more impact in a more divided area of the country, but I suspect that despite the high-stakes issue, her characters themselves don’t have enough at stake to make much of an impact.