Hartford Stage, Hartford
In this 90-minute one-woman show, Annalee Jefferies proves her versatility once more. She will be remembered for her many strong Tennessee Williams roles, an area she has claimed as her own at Hartford Stage.
But this time around, the material is strictly lightweight, as she takes on a frothy piece by Theresa Rebeck. Yearning for a lover, or at least a sexual partner, Haley (as she is dubbed) reviews her series of” bad dates,” preparing, with renewed hope, to meet each new man. It’s failure after failure, but, needless to say, all ends well. This is Theresa Rebeck, not Tennessee Williams.
Jefferies makes the most of the Rebeck material. She carries on a non-stop exchange with the audience, all the while switching outfits, making phone calls, and chatting through the door with her young daughter. It is a skillful—indeed, an endearing—performance.
As to the material itself, one is reminded of Sarah Jessica Parker’s television series, “Sex and the City.” There, too, the women are constantly on a quest to meet men. And, like Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Haley has a shoe fetish, happily purchasing $400 shoes. But there is one striking difference. In Parker’s television series, the women have come into the 21st century, meeting the men on an equal footing. Often they are the strong ones, the aggressors. They take their sex as they find it, with few regrets, and move on to the next encounter. But Haley, even though she is a single mother raising a daughter and running a restaurant with aplomb, is a wimp where the men are concerned. One feels as if her values come from an earlier era. Where is that perfect mate who will love and cherish and protect her? She is beside herself when she meets a blind date who turns out to be a gay man. Can’t she just enjoy an evening with another human being? And finally, when she gets into serious trouble, it is indeed a man who rescues her. Does playwright Theresa Rebeck buy into this anti-feminist view—or is she satirizing it? Hard to say.
In any event, “Bad Dates” is not meant to be taken seriously. Just enjoy watching Jefferies go through her non-stop routine—slipping those sexy dresses off and on, parading a series of emotions, and chatting up the audience.
-- Irene Backalenick
Jan. 15, 2005