My Wonderful Day by
Alan Ayckbourn – Off Broadway Theater Review
ALAN’S WONDERFUL PLAY
by Arielle Lipshaw
published November 22, 2009
now playing at 59E59
through December 13
Alan Ayckbourn knows how to write a good play. This may be a fairly obvious statement, since the prolific British
writer has over 70 plays to his credit, dating back as far as 1959. But in this age when the 30 million dollar Broadway spectacular and the
jukebox musical reign supreme, it’s refreshing and invigorating to sit down to a simple, focused production with a drum-tight narrative.
As the title suggests, My Wonderful Day depicts a day in the life of eight year old Winnie Barnstairs (Ayesha
Antoine), who is a largely silent onlooker to the adult domestic disturbances occurring around her. Brought along by her mother, Laverne
(Petra Letang) on a cleaning job, Winnie faithfully works on a school essay entitled “My Wonderful Day” as the owner of the house, Mr. Tate
(Terence Booth) and his various associates conduct their decidedly un-child-friendly affairs. Mr. Ayckbourn’s script (which he also
directs) tells an absolutely realistic story of how children are treated by adults, and exactly how much they understand of what they hear.
The standout performance is that of Ms. Antoine, who in very few words (many of which are in French), manages to
convey an enormous range of thought and emotion. With the assistance of Jennie Boyer’s clever costume design, the 28-year-old actress is
almost uncannily believable as a preteen. The fact that she is not actually eight years old never distracts from the piece for a moment,
and she brings a depth of wisdom and understanding to the character which a child actor could not have conveyed. Also notable is Alexandra
Mathie, who is by turns hilarious and terrifying as Tate’s estranged wife. (Her delivery of the single word “Enough!” may be the equivalent
of “A handbag?” for the 21st century.)
Mr. Ayckbourn has wisely chosen a very simple set, the better to showcase the depth of characterization which his
six actors achieve, and lighting by Mick Hughes smoothly indicates transitions from room to room. The one misstep in the entire evening
came at the close of the final scene. Without giving too much of the plot away, I will just say that there were two paths Mr. Ayckbourn
could have chosen to finish the story in as crisp and clear a manner as he began it. Perhaps he could not decide between them, choosing
instead a middle path, using a device more suited to television than theater, which rather muddies the ending.
My Wonderful Day delivers six great performances wrapped in the
package of Mr. Ayckbourne’s nearly flawless script and direction. Though the play is decidedly on a smaller scale than his recent Broadway
production of The Norman Conquests, it deserves equal acclaim.
arielle.lipshaw @ stageandcinema.com