By EDWARD RUBIN
For great fun, and a breathless romp through one woman’s topsy-turvy life, Bad Dates, George Street Playhouses’ filmed version of Theresa Rebeck’s 2003 zany one-woman play starring Broadway actress Andréa Burns (In The Heights, On Your Feet, The Nance), is the hip place to be.
Cleverly directed by Burn’s husband Peter Flynn, and more than competently filmed and edited by Hudson Flynn, her high school-aged son (an intimate example, and it shows, of an obviously successful family project) is currently available to stream at georgestreetplayhouse.org through Sunday, March 14.
For those wondering about the filming of Bad Dates, a totally new pandemic experience for theater, cast and crew, it was rehearsed, directed, filmed and edited this past January following strict COVID protocols and social distancing at a home in New Jersey donated by a theater patron.
Aside from a couple of film clips indicating outside locations, our treat is a trunk-load of story-telling monologues which whisks us through 33 shoe and costume changes, to a string of bad dates at couple of restaurants, a hilarious dinner peopled with over-the-top bug loving Buddhists, and unexpectedly to a police station.
As the lights go up, we meet Haley, a forty-something, Texas-twanged waitress, some eight years divorced from her drug-fueled husband. She is living with Vera, her 13-year-old daughter – whom we never see but only hear her loudly playing music – in a two-bedroom rent-controlled apartment in NYC.
Preparing for a date which she hasn’t had in years, Haley is busy trying on a closet full of outfits, and a seemingly endless number of high-end designer shoes, of which she owns 600 pairs;Haley does confess, unabashedly so, to having a shoe fetish.
The majority of the play’s action has Haley, with many full-faced closeups (a wonderful Andréa Burns), whirling dizzyingly about her over-stuffed, shoe-laden bedroom as she regales us, in an extremely frank, friend to friend conversational style, with tale after tale after tale. One cannot help but feel that we are in her bedroom with her.
As far as Haley’s bad-date stories (three to be exact), each one is a little vignette, akin to a comedic stand-up routine or a skit from Saturday Night Live. Though they do sound somewhat familiar, as many a friend of mine has had similar stories, the deeply self-reflecting Burn’s adroitly mines, by analyzing both her date and herself, every drop of crazy silliness, as well as the pathos, from each quirky meeting.
One blind date set up by her mother finds Haley supping with a young, handsome, somewhat rude, and possibly gay Columbia Law Professor. Her alleged clue is his flirting with the waiter. Another date spends most of their time together talking about his colon, his high-cholesterol levels, and the danger of butter and cream. The joke here is that he ends up ordering the butter and cream heavy Coquille Saint-Jacques.
Date three, finally a success, has Haley fantasying about hot sex on her living room floor, and possibly finding a life partner. Of course, she counted her chickens only to learn that all of the time he was living with his girlfriend, a fact he failed to mention.
Of course, all is not lost, as a possible happy ending with a guy, a lawyer no less, that she meets early on at the Buddhist dinner arrives at the police station just in time to save the day.
For the story’s full blast which includes an unexplained big box of money being hidden in a shoebox at the beginning of the film, her mean and ugly Romanian mafia-connected boss’s arrest that left Haley to manage the restaurant where she was working and her allowing one icky date to stick his tongue down her throat – even though they hated each other – during a goodnight kiss, you gotta buy a ticket.
Cast: Andréa Burns (Haley)
Technical: Costume Designer: Lisa Zinni, Lighting Designer: Alan C. Edwards, Original Music & Sound Design, Hair and Makeup Design: Dorothy Peterson, Prop Master and Set Dressing: Helen Tewksbury, Casting: McCorkle Casting Ltd, Production Manager: Christopher J Bailey, Production Stage Manager: Samantha Flint.
Note: Bad Dates, the first production out, is part of George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey, 2021 high energy four-play season which will take you right into the beginning of summer.
Hopefully, for those who missed buying a ticket for Bad Dates, the theater will offer it again for purchase during their four-play season.
Next up to stream at is Fully Committed by Becky Moore (March 23-April 11), Tiny Little Things by Nia Vardalos (May 4-23), and It’s Only a Play by Terrence McNally (June 8-27).