Stamford Theatre Works, Stamford
What’s good about “Bad Dates”? Or bad dates, for that matter? The show itself is commendable for direction, performance and set design. But the subject matter, bad dates, is one long bore.
In this one-woman show, the character takes her audience into her confidence, going on at length about her desperate search for a man. If you met this type at a party or a bar, you’d quickly retreat in another direction. That is, if you could escape. This woman leads a life of desperation, but not quiet desperation. It is talk, talk, talk--ninety minutes of non-stop talk--as you learn the details of her disastrous dating life.
Treatment of this very topic can be perceptive and clever, in the right hands. Consider television’s former hit (and now deservedly in rerun) “Sex and the City.”
But playwright Theresa Rebeck’s script has a lumbering quality which lacks wit and playfulness. Generally Rebeck is a skillful playwright (who has fortunately put her skills to better purpose in other works), and even here she does create plot and characters. You discover that Haley Walker runs a trendy high-scale restaurant owned by Romanians of dubious character, that she has shed a worthless drug-addled mate, that she is the single mother of a teen-age girl, that she has had an array of bad dates, and that she yearns for true love.
It is a cast of thousands, but actress Allison Briner (as Haley Walker) remains alone on stage. And Briner, it must be acknowledged, is a skilled actress. She makes this talky woman very real indeed. And even as she talks, Briner (or rather Haley) is constantly trying on outfits, assessing their effect, and altering the look. It is no mean trick to be constantly in motion, constantly modeling clothes, while creating a character and telling a story. Briner manages the trick.
Credit goes to director Doug Moser for keeping this tale, tiresome though it is, on the move. And credit goes also to his first-rate design team. Set designer James Dardenne’s cluttered bedroom (with its endless array of shoes) is a treasure, as are Ingrid Maurer’s flashy costumes and Aaron Meadow’s effective lighting. Maurer, however, should have considered the fit of clothes more carefully. Too many of Briner’s outfits seem ready to burst at the seams, as she slithers into sexy clothes that barely cover her far-from rail-thin torso. Briner is, as they say, Rubenesque, and she looks best, at play’s end, in jeans and loose shirt.
One-person shows are always a challenge, and Briner has the energy and skills to carry it off. If only she’d had a more intriguing character to offer!
-- Irene Backalenick
Nov. 6, 2006