Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"Bad Dates" at Artistry

Happy Valentine's Day, friends! What better way to celebrate this greeting card holiday than with some bad dates? Specifically, Artistry's production of the one-woman play Bad Dates. Actually it's less about relationships and dating than it is about a smart, strong, independent woman who decides she wants to have a little fun in her life, now that her career and family are on track. I was prepared to get my feminist hackles up about this dating play, but it turns out it wasn't necessary. It's not about finding a man to be complete; Haley's life is already full and complete, she just wants to have a nice dinner and talk to an interesting person every now and then. The play is funny and relatable, and perhaps even a bit poignant at times. In addition to that, it's written by a woman, directed by a woman, and stars a woman, so I'm more than happy to support and recommend it.

Over the course of about 100 minutes, in about a half dozen scenes, Haley tells us her story. The framework of the storytelling is that in each scene she's getting ready to go out on a date, or just coming home from said date. Her bedroom is a mess as she tries on multiple outfits and shoes (so many shoes!). She tells us stories from her history, about how she got where she is - a single mom living in NYC running a successful restaurant. She tells us why she hasn't dated much (not wanting to rock the boat of her successful life and happy kid), and why now she's ready to give it a go. She tells us about her bad dates, her good dates, and her unexpected career crisis. Through it all we learn to like and root for Haley, because she's really not that different from any one of us (except that she's funnier than most of us).

Sara Marsh as Haley (photo courtesy of Artistry)
You'd never know that this is Sara Marsh's first solo show; she's so natural and confident on stage, looking right at the audience and responding to us (this is one of those shows where it's OK to talk back a little if invited to do so). Sara is a natural storyteller and makes Haley feel so real, like someone you want to hang out with. But of course a one-person show is never really that, and Sara has great support from director Mel Day, costume designer Annie Cady (with versatile layers and tons of great shoes), and scenic and props designer Eli Schlatter (a very detailed and lived in bedroom set).

The funny and engaging Bad Dates continues through February 26 in Artistry's black box theater (and you still have time to catch the deliciously campy Little Shop of Horrors in their main theater through February 19).