Like an extended, surrealistic Smothers Brothers routine, John Kolvenbach’s engrossing sojourn through sibling angst is highlighted by the brilliantly off-kilter interplay between dysfunctional recluse Bobby (Johnny Clark) and his supposedly more socially integrated older brother, Jack (Stef Tovar). “On an Average Day” offers a searing, often hilarious history of familial disintegration that benefits from helmer Ron Klier’s relentless, in-your-face staging.
Central theme is established when near-derelict Bobby asks nattily attired Jack, “What are you doing here?” They are both standing in the filth-ravaged kitchen of the family hovel that Jack fled 18 years earlier when Bobby was 15. Kolvenbach painstakingly peels away the subsequent revelations, eventually revealing the roots of the despair that has plagued both brothers throughout their lives.
Clark offers a tour de force portrait of a chaotic, paranoid soul victimized by jagged shards of memory, rendering him incapable of providing direct responses to anything. Eerily reminiscent of a Tommy Smothers in his performance, Clark projects Bobby’s myopic but comical sense of right and wrong, often skewering Jack with his obtuse logic.
In impressive counterbalance, Tovar’s Jack is relentlessly humorless and direct in his attempt to piece together the facts of Bobby’s current predicament and to his own untenable situation. Tovar communicates the weight of memory and guilt that finally reduces Jack to a level of hopelessness that far outdistances that of his younger sibling.
Highlight occurs when communication between the brothers finally runs its harrowing course and they are reduced to mercilessly pummeling each other in a scene staged with near-frightening veracity by Ned Mochel. Surprisingly, this second-act brawl leads to the only weakness in Kolvenbach’s thematic throughline.
As if the fisticuffs have enhanced his mental faculties, Bobby achieves a level of logic and perception that actually serves as a redemptive salve to Jack’s travails. This moves the production to a tidier resolution but shortchanges Kolvenbach’s heretofore highly creative plotline.