New York City Theater
Never mind that it belongs off-Broadway. “First Date” is the show for those who laugh at “I’m going to use the restroom and see if I can drown myself in the urinal.” Fortunately, Austin Winsberg’s book is snappily directed by Bill Berry. Music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner are variations on the theme of love.
Aaron and Casey, meeting at a cozy restaurant, don’t know what to expect. He’s uptight, overdressed, puppyish. Also Jewish. She’s frank, mod, kooky yet experienced. Not Jewish. She labels him “BDV” or “Blind Date Virgin.” He calls her “BDS” or “Blind Date Slut.”
Presided over by a fey owner/waiter/bartender who writes songs, the couple is bombarded by characters both real and imagined. Among Aaron’s are his ex-girlfriend and his goofy best friend; among Casey’s are her admonitory sister and her limp-wristed best friend (an appalling stereotype).
Although their first impressions are antagonistic (and “could be totally wrong”), Aaron and Casey grope for common ground. As he becomes increasingly cynical and self-protective, she becomes softer and less confrontational. “If I don’t try, I’ll never know,” says he. “I can’t keep building walls,” says she.
Zachary Levi is the perfect nerd, stopping the show with “In Love With You,” which he sings to his ex. With his awkward physicality, his wary eyes and his voice on the verge of cracking, he’s ingratiating. As Casey, Krysta Rodriguez is all world-weary experience, the kind of date that immediately pushes her fella to the edge of insecurity.
But, don’t worry. This is a soothing show. After all, who wants to challenge customers paying $137 a seat?
--David A. Rosenberg
Aug. 22, 2013