Hillary B. Smith and Paul Michael Valley
in Any Given Monday
(© Carol Rosegg)
Hillary B. Smith and Paul Michael Valley
in Any Given Monday
(© Carol Rosegg)
Bruce Graham's troubling comedy-drama, Any Given Monday, now at 59E59 Theatres under Bud Martin's efficient direction, is devilishly devised from the plot standpoint, and will undeniably tickle many spectators' fancies. But once audiences assess its moral underpinnings, they may feel it was their sense of right and wrong that was punched in the stomach.

The play begins days after upstanding Philadelphia public school teacher Lenny (Paul Michael Valley) has been abandoned by his wife Risa (Hillary B. Smith) for apparently suave (though never seen) Frank. He is bereft of desire to do anything but sit in his dark-hued den (rendered by set designer Dirk Durossette) and eat pizza while watching football or repeatedly screening his favorite film, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Soon, the moral convictions by which Lenny has lived are shaken by the appearance of his childhood pal, subway worker Mickey (Michael Mastro), who drops by to watch the game -- and to deliver a bit of jaw-dropping news: Acting on Lenny's behalf, Mickey has confronted Frank at his home, murdered him, and disposed of the body in a manner he believes makes his action hermetically undetectable.

As outlandish as his story initially sounds Lenny and his daughter Sarah (Lauren Ashley Carter), a college philosophy student, soon come to believe Mickey. And when he returns a day later with a newspaper account of the murder and detailing the demise of a supposed murderer -- a local African-American youth -- it becomes obvious that no one will ever suspect the truth.

Given her academic discipline, Sarah has some qualms about what has transpired -- at least for a few moments. But the sticky issue is quickly dismissed and she moves on to other dilemmas, notably goading her father into facing up to Risa when she inevitably returns.

The remainder of Graham's piece follows Risa's reentry to the family nest (until this point, she's been commenting stage right intermittently as if chatting with her sister). Following Sarah's advice, Lenny does man up -- much like a character in one of the new television season's sitcoms.

While Graham is evidently commenting on contemporary attitudes toward the pragmatics of morality, what he utlimately delivers suggests he's satisfied with showing a rosier outcome than might be expected.

When Risa does return -- confessing that she left Frank's house almost immediately after arriving -- she gives a number of persuasive reasons for leaving in the first place and which provide sufficient cause for her to stay gone no matter what occurred between Frank and her. Had that development taken place, it might have supplied the underpinnings for a much more truthful play than Any Given Monday.