Bad Dates

February 4, 2018

in Plays

Play (2003)
by Theresa Rebeck

Directed by Jessica Stone

Huntington Theatre Company
Boston Univerity Theater
Symphony Hall area, Boston
January 26 – February 25, 2018

Scenic Design: Alexander Dodge; Costume Design: Sarah Laux

With Haneefah Wood (Haley Walker)

Haneefah Wood as Haley Walker in 'Bad Dates'

Haneefah Wood as Haley Walker
in “Bad Dates”
Photo: T. Charles Erickson
Courtesy of Huntington Theatre Company

A spunky and funny one-woman play about middle-aged hopes and disappointments in love.

She loves shoes, and gives Carrie Bradshaw and Imelda Marcos a run for their money.

And she has her eye out for potential liaisons. A middle-aged mother of a teenage girl, Haley has not given up on the possibility of partnering, and an avalanche of often very funny monologue accentuates the trials of that condition. One potential partner after the other shows up in the narrative and one by one they disappear, exemplars of inattention, betrayal, victimization, and ultimate emblems of disappointment. Nonetheless, Haley screams in outrage as she wrings humor out of every misaligned moment; it’s Haley’s wittily acerbic energy that drives the story forward and there’s plenty of that to go around.

If there’s any poignancy in this scenario, it’s in the condition it depicts, the uphill trial of a still vital and hopeful woman of a certain age to find happy partnership. The account is wry, mostly funny, and consistently deflating, particularly so when even the seemingly perfect guy seems to fall away just like that.

A plot involving Haley’s career as a restaurateur who has to deal with a crooked boss curiously provides the structure that enables the story about dating and relationship to find its natural harbor, enabling seemingly errant characters a place to roost.

Haneefah Wood gives a vividly sassy account of the role, passing off lines with wit and alternately evoking heartfelt sighs when needed. She spryly carries the show on strong and capable shoulders.

The set by Alexander Dodge is wonderfully, and itself wittily, designed. As the opening of the play progresses, door after door opens showing new shoe racks at every turn, monopolizing on a sight gag in a way that’s very effective. The depicted interior is quite grand on its own terms, making good use of the large stage while not dwarfing the solo performer.

Light on the surface, this show’s undercurrent is about disappointment, resilience, and learning to look beyond the obvious. The laughs go down rather nicely and gives one a good opportunity to take in the persuasive talents of the show’s star while absorbing the gentle subtext, not obliged to get too tired out by weighty interchange or imposing metaphor.

The show had been performed at the Huntington in 2004, shortly after it was written. Here it is again, somewhat unexpectedly but with some interesting variations, pleasantly humorous, and though not too demanding, gently disarming.

– BADMan

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