For the charming Adam Gwon musical “Ordinary Days,” Patrick Allison built a subtly ingenious set: a life-sized Joseph Cornell box, each compartment of which refers in some way to a plot point, place or prop in the two intertwined stories. Coffee shop paraphernalia here, a New York license plate there, a laptop in a corner. Then, over the course of the play, in the words of the opening song, “One by One by One,” each is hidden by a black curtain until, by the climax, a single compartment is left visible, a still life featuring deep red apples.
Relentlessly cheery Warren, a gay would-be artist played with infectious enthusiasm by Zack Steele, and ever anxious Deb, struggling with her dissertation on Virginia Woolf and given vivid voice by Leslie Goddard, meet at the Metropolitan Museum in front of that still life.
Meanwhile, eager Jason (John Robert Armstrong) has moved in with Claire (Jackie Comisar), who clearly fears commitment. When Jason proposes in the midst of a quarrel, Claire panics and runs.
The two stories intersect with a heart-tugging twist at the end.
Lyrically, Gwon exhibits an inventive way with words; musically, our time’s common indebtedness to Sondheim. Short North Stage director Pamela Hill and music director and pianist Ly Apelado have woven strong singing and animated acting into an enchanting whole. Contrasting with the Green Room stage’s mostly black backdrop, “Ordinary Days” ends with an explosion of colors into lives that promise to be anything but still.