The worst feeling in the world is loneliness. It's the kind of feeling that can cause some people to put a gun to their head and pull the trigger. But what happens when you find someone to stop you?
That is the question at hand in Working on a Special Day, a brief, but heartfelt adaptation of Ettore Scola's 1977 film, Una Giornata Particolar, now at 59E59 in a co-production of America's The Play Company and Mexico City's Por Piedad Teatro. Directed and performed by Ana Graham and Antonio Vega (from an original concept by Laura Almela and Daniel Gimenez Cacho), this seventy-five minute one act is all about theatrical invention, in an economic way. The result is striking.
The date is May 8, 1938, the occasion of Hitler's visit to Mussolini in Rome. While the entire town has gathered to watch the historic event, two people have stayed home: domestic professional Antonietta (Graham), and former radio announcer Gabriel (Vega). She is looking after her apartment; he is ready to pull the trigger and end his life …until the fateful moment when her parrot flies to his window and inadvertently brings them together.
Over the course of the day, Antonietta and Gabriel become unlikely friends, with potential to form an even deeper relationship. There's only one thing that will get in the way: a secret that unlocks the key to the reason why he's living alone, the reason why he's out of a job, and the reason why he's not at a parade.
The quietly sexy Graham is thoroughly believable as the exasperated housewife and the scruffily handsome Vega makes for a soulful thinker. Together, they're an excellent pair, with a great deal of chemistry, and expertly infuse their characters with the very apparent desire for the right to have more than their current lot in life.
Forget the fact that Graham and Vega are Mexican, performing in English an adaptation of an Italian movie. That's completely irrelevant. What is relevant, however, is their imagination, and how that imagination affects the direction of their work. Graham and Vega perform every single role, including her husband, her many children, the porter, even the chirping parrot and the ringing telephone.
Not only that, but the actors also responsible for the scenery. In a genius touch, Gabriel Pascal's scenic design (adapted by David L. Arsenault) of two chairs and two tables requires the actors to draw, with chalk, the various other apartment accoutrements, windows, and assorted props. A piece of chalk becomes a cigarette. A tiny scribble on the wall becomes the cigarette's smoke. It's this sort of ultra-small-scale inventiveness that's rarely seen in New York these days, making Working on a Special Day even more of a treat.