By Carol Montana
I feel very strongly that I should start this review with a full disclosure. I went to graduate school with Dan Lauria, the playwright and star of the 2023 season opener at Shadowland. And of all the student actors in the Dramatic Arts Department of University of Connecticut, I picked Dan out as someone who was going to “make it” in show biz. And I was right! In later years, my friends got tired of me yelling out whenever I would see Dan on TV in “The Wonder Years,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Dr. Quinn,” “NCIS,” “The Resident” and others – “I went to school with him!”
So, back in the late ‘70s, I knew of Dan’s acting prowess, having seen him in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and having acted with him in “A View from the Bridge.” But what I didn’t know was how good a playwright he would become.
The world premiere of Dan Lauria’s new play “Just Another Day” is going on now through June 18 at Shadowland Stages in Ellenville. It’s a co-production with Great Barrington Stage Company.
And what an artistic coup it is!
Two people are onstage – a man and a woman, he a comedy writer, she a sophisticated poet – both in their 70s – masterfully played by Dan Lauria and star in her own right, Patty McCormack (“The Bad Seed,” “The Miracle Worker.” “The Sopranos” and more). They sit and talk, and trade barbs and jokes, all while trying to figure out who they are and how they know each other. In the distance, a loud, clanging, obnoxious bell sounds whenever they touch, or if the conversation gets heated. Who are they? Where are they? Why are they in this place?
To answer those questions now would be giving too much away, and would spoil the beauty and the joy of getting there.
And joy and so many other emotions run rampant during “Just Another Day,” flawlessly steered by Director James Glossman, who most recently has given us “Safe Home” (his collaboration with Tom Hanks), John Cleese’s “Bang Bang!” and Jeff Daniels’ “Flint.”
There are wonderful scenes during which the couple recalls old movies, and there’s howling audience laughter when the Woman interviews the Man as God’s Special Effects Man during a show called “You Should Have Been There.” There are also scenes that are tender and sometimes sad, but hiding under all the time is love.
Lauria’s writing is magnificent, full of wit and wisdom like, “As long as we create, we are not lost …” and “There is no past, so let us construct the present,” and “We must laugh, we have to remember to laugh …” The dialogue is also acerbic at times, and poignant at others. This is a play about memories, performed by two actors of outstanding talent who are a delight to watch.
McCormack and Lauria match wits in a tennis competition of pointed barbs, lightning-fast discourse, tender moments and comic respite. This play, this story is warm and meaningful, evocative, eloquent, heartachingly real and often, hilariously funny. It’s the perfect match of drama and comedy. I want to see it again.
“Just Another Day” plays at Shadowland Stages, 98 Center Street in Ellenville on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through June 18. Don’t wait. Call the box office today at 845-647-5511.
Dan Lauria and Patty McCormack star in “Just Another Day” at Shadowland Stages.
There is something thrilling about live theatre. Unlike movies and television, there are no second takes. At any moment something could go awry and the actors, technicians and audience are all along for the ride. Being in the moment with fellow audience members engages a camaraderie unlike any other. In Ellenville, audiences can visit Shadowland Stages through June 18 to see a world premiere of a play written by Dan Lauria called Just Another Day.
Shadowland Stages was originally a vaudeville and moviehouse in the 1920s and since 1984 has been the home to an inspiring live theater that promotes the undeniable talent of our area. Opening their 2023 season with Dan Lauria’s Just Another Day, a two person play, is a beautiful way to kick off the summer.
Dan Lauria in his play Just Another Day at Shadowlands Stages in Ellenville.
Not only did Lauria write the new work, but he is starring in it alongside Patty McCormack. Lauria is most recognized as the dad, Jack Arnold, on the highly acclaimed, Emmy-winning, ABC television show, The Wonder Years. In 2010 and 2011, Lauria was seen on Broadway in the long-running production of Lombardi as the legendary coach Vince Lombardi with Judith Light, directed by Thomas Kail (who some may know has the director of Hamilton). Lauria returned again in the 2013-14 production of the Tony nominated A Christmas Story: The Musical, directed by John Rando.
McCormack is no novice to the stage herself. Audiences will recognize McCormack from her more than seven decades of stage, screen and television performances. From Oscar and Golden Globe nominated performances in The Bad Seed to work in the Oscar and Golden Globe nominated Frost/Nixon and The Master, McCormack brings her diverse range of talent to every role she plays.
Dan Lauria and Patty McCormack in Lauria's play Just Another Day at Shadowlands Stages in Ellenville.
“Shadowland Stages continues its commitment to the development of new plays with the highly entertaining Just Another Day. And what a blessing to have Patty and Dan share their talents with our audience,” said artistic director Brendan Burke.
Directed by Shadowland Stages veteran James Glossman, Just Another Day follows the journeys of a comedy writer (Lauria) and a sophisticated poet (McCormack) in their seventies as they meet daily on a park bench to exchange wits and barbs, and wax nostalgic about old movies, all the while trying to figure out how they know – and love – each other. The story takes place in a park which is eloquently created on the stage with a park bench, street light and the trimmings.
Viewers will laugh, possibly shed a tear, as well as have their hearts warmed by the interaction and history between the two characters. With two acts and an epilogue, the show will close with the audience imagining what the next day could hold for the man and woman. Do not miss the opportunity to see the world premiere of this funny and poignant new play. For more information and tickets, visit www.shadowlandstages.org or call the box office at 845-647-5511.
-Melissa Dvozenja-Thomas, The Poughkeepsie Journal
Melissa Dvozenja-Thomas is the Executive Director of Arts Mid-Hudson. Art From Here appears every other week. Contact her at 845-454-3222 or email@example.com.