By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Few commercial theatrical successes dare to deliver that bold a slap at the powers that be. For doing it in such an original and wildly funny way, Urinetown deserves to be showered with praise. It's no strain to say that WaterTower's production is a golden triumph.
Turns out it was for real. An audience member had fallen ill and dropped to the floor in the far corner of the intimate Black Box Theater. Carlos, perched atop a refrigerator, center stage, saw what happened. He wisely stopped the show and with his co-star and co-director Joe Nemmers jumped from the stage to help the man, who was eventually taken away by ambulance. After a break for audience and actors to recover, the play resumed where Carlos had left off.
The drama is a two-hander about troubled brothers reuniting uneasily after 20 years apart. Bob (Carlos), a violent alcoholic, is on trial for assaulting a stranger. Older brother Jack (Nemmers) shows up knowing that Bob will likely go to jail soon. He has a few myths to clear up about their father, who ditched the family when the boys were young. Both men are depressed, but Jack, a suburban father of two, is suicidal. For a while it seems certain that one of the men will die at the hands of the other. But the final scene, a physical confrontation involving a loaded gun, goes in a surprising direction.
On an Average Day is difficult to sit through, unexpected mishaps notwithstanding. What happened the other night seemed to have the effect of refocusing the actors' concentration. The second act was far more compelling than the first. Carlos was particularly strong in Bob's long, booze-blurred speeches (the characters kill off six or eight beers and are well into a bottle of hard liquor by the end). Nemmers lets Jack's pain emerge gradually, his cathartic revelation to his brother at the end coming across as gut-twistingly authentic.
They say the show must go on, and this one did. That it got even better after the interruption is a testament to the professionalism and gritty determination of the actors.