Magic Theatre: U.S. premiere of Scottish playwright Linda McLean’s moving ‘Any Given Day’

(Charles Kruger)

(Rating: 4/5 Stars » Highly Recommended)

This reviewer is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

It is a commonplace sort of observation to consider that on any given day, something might happen to change our lives for better or worse.  But Linda McLean‘s gentle exploration of this simple theme is anything but commonplace. It is glorious.

McLean’s play delivers what we most hope for in the theatre: a full emotional roller coaster ride from delighted joy to shocked horror and despair and back again. An astonishing range of human experience is encountered in this simple tale of a day in the lives of two couples.

Bill and Sadie (Amy Kossow and Christopher McHale) live in an impoverished but cozy public housing apartment. We quickly realize that they are developmentally disabled. But this does not keep them from loving one another and their intimate relationship is beautifully delineated in McLean’s sparse but poetic language. They are awaiting the visit of someone named Jackie, whom they clearly love, and about whom they are very excited. As they chatter and prepare, we learn of Sadie’s many fears (she is even afraid to open the freezer) and Bill’s protective nature. Somebody throws a stone at their window. Bill must go out to buy a loaf of bread. It is an ordinary day. Soon, they will experience a devastating life changing event. It happens, but we do not see the after effects. And so ends Act I.

In Act II, we see a contrasting scene played out in another location, the Glasgow pub where Jackie works as a bartender. We learn that she is Bill’s neice whose visit Bill and Sadie were awaiting in Act I. Jackie flirts with her boss, Dave, and in the course of their conversation we learn many details of her life. She has been a professional nurse. She has an invalid son, from whom she has been estranged. She is afraid to respond to Dave’s flirtation, but she does anyway. Perhaps it will change her life.

Christopher McHale as Bill and Amy Kossow as Sadie in Magic Theatre's American premiere of Linda McLean's "Any Given Day". Photo credit: Jennifer Reilly.

That’s it. Good things happen. Bad things happen. It could be any given day. The wonder of the play is the way in which the unexpected depths of emotion and spirit that inform the commonplace are revealed and made accessible for the audience to share.

Under the coordinating hand of director Jon Tracy, all of the performances are excellent, but Amy Kossow’s Sadie is more than that. Although Sadie obviously has severe mental disabilities, her emotional life as written by playwright McLean is wide and deep and Kossow captures every nuance. It is wonderful work.

Special mention should be made of Michael Locher’s remarkable set design. The transformation between the settings of Act I and Act II presents true theatrical magic, including an on stage rainstorm and a convincing transition between two dramatically different interiors that takes place right before our eyes. Indeed, the entire design team does exceptional work here.

Clearly, Linda McLean is a playwright in the midst of a distinguished career and she will no doubt be well-known to American audiences before long.

Any Given Day continues through April 22 at the Magic Theatre. For further information, click here.

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“Any Given Day” by Linda McLean, produced by the Magic Theatre. Director: Jon Tracy. Set Design: Michael Locher. Costume Design: Christine Cook. Lighting Design: York Kennedy. Sound Design: Sara Huddleston. Dialect Coach: Deborah Sussel. Fight Direction: Dave Maier. Technical Director: Dave Gardner. Props Design: Angela Nostrand.

Dave: James Carpenter. Sadie: Amy Kossow. Bill: Christopher McHale. Boy: Patrick Alparone. Jackie: Stacy Ross. 

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