Home, for Americans, is where most experience lies, which presents problems for anyone wanting American plays to be political. Since virtually all families in American plays are dysfunctional, and a dysfunctional family doesn’t debate political issues much, the ideas that should animate political drama are often shut out of the discussion. Hence Leslie Ayvazian’s Lovely Day is a good sign—an intriguing, if insufficient, 75-minute work that steps tentatively, almost warily, toward dramatizing the way political differences do and don’t poison a marriage.
Martin (David Rasche) and Fran (Deirdre O’Connell) are a marital disaster waiting to happen, he an army vet with a successful marketing business who espouses bite-the-bullet patriotism, she a hazily liberal artist manqué who has lately taken to joining silent anti-war protests with the lefties down the block. This and other secrets tumble out, because of worries about their 17-year-old son, Brian (Javier Picayo), whose high school has lately been visited by military recruiters. The amiably noncommittal Brian, who seems more interested in playing his guitar than in playing soldier, isn’t discussing his future plans, and the marriage doesn’t crack apart, but there are moments when Ayvazian’s spousal dialogues breathe close to the edge of the great plays that have been written about human beings riven by war and political dissension. Although this may leave you frustrated that she hasn’t seized her ideas more boldly or expressed them more fully, the adumbration of greatness is itself a rarity these days, and you can always read Shaw, Brecht, and Euripides at home. What you can’t get at home, though, is acting power of the quality generated, quietly and subtly, by O’Connell and Rasche, both handily outclassing, under Blair Brown’s direction, even their normally first-rate work. The jaw-dropping moment when O’Connell’s meek pacifist goes ballistic is one of those great things that can only happen in a theater.