Monday, December 16, 2019

"Adventures in Mating: Holiday Edition" at DalekoArts

I loved reading choose-your-own-adventure books as a kid. It was so exciting to have a bit of a control over where the story was going, to flip back and forth to specified pages based on your own choice. Who knew there was a theatrical version of this particular thrill? #TCTheater artist Joseph Scrimshaw created such a thing for the Minnesota Fringe Festival years ago, called Adventures in Mating. It was so popular he expanded it, and it was produced elsewhere, including at DalekoArts as part of their "Friends of Friends" weekend series. I'd never seen it before making the beautiful winter's drive to DalekoArts in New Prague, where they're premiering an updated holiday* version of Adventures in Mating. It's hilarious and awkward and delightful, and also has that particular choose-your-own-adventure thrill of being in control of where the story is going. They say anything can happen in theater, but this show takes that to a new level, keeping the actors and crew on their toes as we decide their fate. And as expected, the team at DalekoArts does that dance beautifully.

The premise of the show is as simple as a blind date. And as awkward, uncertain, surprising, and complicated as a blind date. Miranda (Siri Hellerman) arrives early and starts talking to herself, preparing for the date. Soon Jeffrey (Ben Thietje) arrives and can't stop talking. They're an odd pair - she has many cats, he has an undescended testicle - but they find common ground in their love of books, and smelling them. But they also have more than a few disagreements, and decide to get all of their secrets out of the way so they can move on with the relationship (or not). The play ends when the date ends, but it's up to the audience how they get there.

The fun part of the show arrives with the adorably exasperated waiter (Patrick Kozicky), who stops the action of the play by ringing a bell. He explains that he's the host of this strange experiment, and when the players waver on a decision they have to make, he rings his bell and asks the audience to vote via applause. Red, white, or rosé? Who should answer the phone? Kiss or slap? On a few occasions, the audience's choice resulted in someone dying, in which case we backed up and chose the other choice to see where that would take us (just like I did when reading choose-your-own-adventure books). The cast confirmed in a post-show discussion that there were five or six scenes we didn't see, and one or two they haven't done yet in the run of the show.

Siri Hellerman, Patrick Kozicky, and Ben Thietje
(photo courtesy of DalekoArts)
A play is always different every night, if just in small, even imperceptible ways, but this play truly is remarkably different every night. Kudos to the cast, director Bobby Gardner, and stage manager Paran Kashani for making everything run smoothly. Robin McIntyre's set provides a good playground for the actors, with three tables (most of which are suspiciously empty, except for an occasional audience volunteer), a Christmas tree in the corner, and a general fancy surprise restaurant feel. The cast is dressed in appropriately elegant, schlubby, or waiterly attire (designed by Amanda White, I'll let you guess which is which).

This is a clever and unique concept for a play, with very funny and ridiculous and somehow still real writing, all of it well executed by the team at Daleko. Just four performances of Adventures in Mating: Holiday Edition remain this weekend, so head south to catch it while you can. And check out the rest of Daleko's excellent season, which includes the area premiere of Ada and the Machine (a play about mathematician Ada Lovelace), and the hilarious musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

*Click here to read about all of the holiday shows I've seen this year.