ANY GIVEN DAY at The Magic is heart stopping

(Upper) Christopher McHale as Bill and Amy Kossow as Sadie (Lower) James Carpenter as Dave and Stacey Ross as Jackie in Magic Theatre's production of Any Given Day by Linda McLean. Photos by Jennifer Reiley.

ANY GIVEN DAY: Drama by Linda McLean. American Premiere. Directed by Jon Tracy. Magic Theatre,
Fort Mason Center, Building D, 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94123 (entrance to Fort Mason at the intersection of Marina Street and Buchanan Street. 415-441-8822 or . Through April 22.


Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, like Governor Ronald Reagan, is known for emptying the governmental institutions housing the “mentally challenged” occupants that became known as “deinstitutionalization.” Thatcher posited that more home-like environment would benefit those with “special needs.” In the UK placing these people in council housing projects became the de rigor solution. It was a failed experiment since the community did not, or could provide the needed services.

Sadie (Amy Kossow) and Bill (Christopher McHale) are two of the disenfranchised living in such housing units located in a seedy part of Glasgow. They are both mentally challenged and we never learn their relationship but they interact with humor and understanding. Their childlike behavior is infectious but shrouded in fear of the world outside as they await the arrival of Bill’s niece Jackie. A steady rain adds ominous atmosphere foreshadowing the unexpected horrendous action ending the first scene.

The play was part of Magic’s annual Virgin Play Series where scripts are in various stages of development are read and critiqued. Author McClean, who is highly respected in her native Scotland and throughout the UK, is apparently experimenting with form. On Any Given Day is really two plays occurring at the same time: 2 p.m. on an oppressively rainy day. The characters in each segment never meet but in the second play we meet Jackie (Stacy Ross). The character relationship between the two play segments is only partially identified and was the topic of discussion/confusion during the post-show gathering.

This confusion on opening night, for those of us sitting on the right side of the intimate thrust stage was that Stacy Ross’s voice was at times unintelligible. This did creat ambiguity that was probably written into the script. Director Jon Tracy brilliantly paces the movements and speech patterns with infinite dexterity giving cohesiveness to the evening.

There is no intermission and the first act takes place in Bill and Sadie’s doughty flat and the second in Dave (James Carpenter) wood paneled tavern where Jackie works. On this day Dave tells Jackie she has a message from her son simply saying “Tell mum today is a good day.” Jackie’s response “. . . don’t you. . . don’t you say that to me if it isn’t the gospel f…… truth.” McLean has now set up a terrific scene with clipped crisp dialog that creates fully rounded characters without resorting to exposition. At this point it becomes Jackie’s play as she interacts with Dave on a potentially sexual level. Ross and Carpenter are like a fine tuned machine as they interact and despite the shocking fist act curtain action, McLean implies that “any given day” can be a good day.

Amy Kossow's Sadie is perfect, running the gamut of fun, vulnerability, pain, anger and total fear. Christopher McHale has just the right amount of banal expression to convey being mentally challenged yet capable to handle everyday chores and a protector of Sadie. James Carpenter’s ability to handle any role is again reflected in his underplaying of McLean’s concise cogent interjections. Along with his non-verbal responses he gives the role of Dave solid footing. Even with the caveat of not being heard in the lateral recesses of the theatre, Ross gives verisimilitude to the key role of Jackie. Running time 80 minutes without intermission but with an extended scene change. Sets by Michael Locher.

Kedar K. Adour, MD