- Chief New York Theatre Critic
- Outer Critics Circle
Both upper-east-side resident Daisy Gamble (Melissa Errico) and psychiatrist Dr. Mark Bruckner (Stephen Bogardus) need clarity in their lives. Daisy lives in the Barbizon Hotel for Women and is applying for a job at Latimer and Latimer and has “until the afternoon” to quit smoking to meet the company’s policies. She is down to her “last month’s rent. Daisy does have a special knack with plants and seems to know when the phone is going to ring. Daisy’s friends Janie Preston (Caitlin Gallogly) and Muriel Bunson (Daisy Hobbs) would not object to some clarity in their lives either. Janie is not so good at plants and not only dates gay men but imagines she can “change” them. Muriel needs to trim three inches off her hips in two days. Muriel has had some success with Dr. Bruckner and invites Janie and Daisy to join her group to address their issues.
Mark Bruckner does not fully realize he needs clarity in his life and practice until he meets Daisy when she visits his group with her friends. After Daisy is hypnotized “by mistake,” Mark discovers she “is a natural. One in a billion.” Daisy is a plant whisperer and has ESP – and a secret past. During further regressive hypnotic sessions, Mark discovers Daisy had a former life in 18th century England as Melinda Welles. Obsessed with Melinda and her “affair” with Edward Moncrief (John Cudia), Mark insists on meeting with Daisy even after his colleague Dr. Conrad Fuller (Craig Waletzko) threatens to have Mark removed from the clinic if he publishes his “research” on Daisy and Melinda.
The regressive hypnotic sessions are the “grit” of the musical comedy. Initially unaware of Mark’s intrusive techniques (wouldn’t these be abusive?), Daisy cooperates with Mark and enjoys the attention and time he gives her. But whom does Mark admire? Daisy or Melinda? Realism or romanticism? The relationships in the 19th century parallel those in the 1960s in many ways and Daisy exhibits the resilience and strength of the “modern woman.” Melissa Errico gives her “split personalities” depth and authenticity and Stephen Bogardus serves as a formidable chauvinistic foil to both women.
Much of “On a Clear Day’s” book music is uninspired; however, buoyed up by its lyrics, the musical comedy is enjoyable and provides a glimpse into layers of relationships often left unexplored. Many of the “thousands and thousands of little pieces” in the lives of women and men Lerner explores are captured and captivate the audience. Most heartening of course are the performances. Melissa Errico’s Daisy brings pathos and ethos to her solo “He Wasn’t You” and later to her duet “She Wasn’t You” with John Cuida’s Edward Moncrief. Stephen Bogardus gives the good Dr. Bruckner that character’s own style of dual personalities: he longs for the “imagined” Melinda in “Melinda” and yearns to reconnect with Daisy in the plaintive “Come Back to Me.”
Director Charlotte Moore, who also adapted the musical comedy, deftly moves the action to and from the 1960s and the 1900s and successfully uses every square inch of Irish Rep’s compact stage and one of the staircase landings for the opening and closing musical numbers (with superb scenic design and projection art by James Morgan and projection design by Ryan Belock). Under her direction, the uniformly competent cast members deliver energized performances and pleasing renditions of the music and lyrics.
There are several important questions raised in “On a Clear Day,” some specific to the musical comedy and some more enduring and rich. Charlotte Moore’s staging gives from the perspectives of history and contemporary discussions of sexual status and free will.
The cast of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” includes Florrie Bagel, William Bellamy, Stephen Bogardus, Rachel Coloff, Peyton Crim, John Cudia, Melissa Errico, Caitlin Gallogly, Matt Gibson, Daisy Hobbs, and Craig Waletzko.
“On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” features music direction by John Bell, choreography by Barry McNabb, orchestrations by Josh Clayton, and will be conducted by Gary Adler. The production team includes scenic designer James Morgan, lighting designer Mary Jo Dondlinger, projection designer Ryan Belock, and sound designer M. Florian Staab. Casting is by Deborah Brown. Arthur Atkinson serves as production stage manager. Production photos by Carol Rosegg.
“On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” runs at Irish Rep Theatre (132 West 22nd Street) on the Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage through Sunday August 12, 2018 on the following schedule: Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursday at 7:00 p.m., Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. To purchase tickets, please visit https://irishrep.org/. Running time is 2 hours including one 15-minute intermission.
Photo: Craig Waletzko, Melissa Errico, and William Bellamy in “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.” Credit: Carol Rosegg.