Sunday, October 21, 2007

The dating game exposed

My freelance review:
Looking for an intimate theatre experience? Look no further than Bad Dates, now playing as part of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' Off-Ramp series.

Bad Dates is a one-actor show, with that actor playing just one character on just one set -- but when you walk out of the show, you'll feel a sense of having seen a show rich in characters and situations.

And you'll also feel good for having laughed -- a lot.

Annie Fitzpatrick delivers an outstanding performance as Haley Walker -- a 40-something single mom, newly-successful restaurateur and designer-shoe addict. As the story begins, Walker is frantically trying to find the right outfit for her first date in a long time. As she redresses herself multiple times, she explains to the audience her background and what she is up to.

That date -- the first of several -- doesn't go very well. But it's a hoot hearing the details!

Haley's conversation with the audience is interrupted only a few times -- phone calls, speaking to her off-stage teenaged daughter, or when leaving for a date. Otherwise, the focus is Haley's conversation with the audience. As with life, the conversation can be light-hearted, serious or some combination of both. Playwright Theresa Rebeck has crafted a rich, human story.

Which brings me back to Fitzpatrick. She demonstrates incredible range as an actor. At numerous points throughout the show, I was struck by her performance and how sincere your character's emotions seemed. For example, when Haley breaks down after having her heart broken, I was tempted to run on-stage to be with her!

The production plays out very well on its small stage. Haley's New York City apartment (by scenic designer Narelle Sissons) is inviting.

Director Michael Evan Haney, who directed the thrilling Witness for the Prosecution from two seasons ago and the touching The Heidi Chronicles from last season, scores another win.

Bad Dates plays through November 4 at the Grandel Theatre (3610 Grandel Square in St. Louis City) as part of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' Off-Ramp series.

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