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Charming actress, killer shoes at the BoarsHead
If there’s one universal truth that all men and women equally share, it’s that at some point in our lives, all of us have been on at least one bad date.
That’s being generous, of course. The truth is, the older you get, the more bad dates you experience.
But where the sexes probably differ is how we define a bad date – and who, exactly, is to blame for it.
Take Haley Walker, for instance. She knows a thing or two about bad dates, and she gladly shares them with us in – what else? – “Bad Dates,” a one-woman comedy at Lansing’s BoarsHead Theater.
A divorced mother of a 13-year-old girl, Haley left Texas several years ago for The Big Apple where she planned to create a new life for the two. With few marketable skills other than waitressing, she found a job in a restaurant owned by Romanians where all seemed to go well until the owner was busted for money laundering. With no one at the helm who knew a thing about running the business, Haley makes a startling personal discovery: She a “weird restaurant idiot savant” who amazingly transforms the place into one of New York’s hippest, trendiest hotspots.
Today, she’s successful and financially secure – but lonely. She craves adult companionship, so – after many years – she decides to re-enter the dating scene.
Without spoiling the show’s fun, let’s simply say that her dip into the dating pool doesn’t go well.
But who, exactly is to blame for that: the men, Haley or both?
Ultimately, it’s that question that’s at the heart of playwright Theresa Rebeck’s often witty script. For despite the blatant male-bashing that takes place during much of the show – for which Haley apologizes, I must add – Rebeck also makes it clear that Haley’s not totally blameless for her predicament.
How does Rebeck accomplish that? By crafting a charming character with her own set of human foibles. In other words, Haley is an imperfect soul just like the rest of us -only funnier!
Even before the show begins, Haley’s flaws are quite obvious. Set in a bedroom that most New Yorkers would die for (except for the color scheme, that is), Haley is the proud owner of several hundred pairs of shoes. Many no longer fit and most have a story behind them that renders them useless, but the fact that she spends more time changing clothes to match her shoes than pretty much anything else during the play is a sure sign of a much deeper problem: She’s fixated on the externals rather than the internals.
And the fact that she rejects one man because he bears a slight resemblance to a nasty character in the movie “Mildred Pierce” only confirms that Haley is as crazy as the rest of us – and as equally capable of causing a bad date as anyone else.
(If there’s a flaw with Rebeck’s script, it’s the odd twist at the end of the fourth scene that yanks the story in a direction that seems totally out of character and out of place – but structurally needed to tie the storyline together by show’s end. I can think of several other – better – ways to accomplish the same thing, but what the heck. It’s her play, not mine.)
What’s flawless, however, is the right-on-target performance of Maggie Carney.
Carney infuses Haley with a charming and breezy personality that immediately appeals to men and women alike. Women may recognize her as a close friend they’ve known – and confided in – for years; men – straight men, that is – might like to date her.
The script, written as five long monologues, breaks down the theater’s fourth wall by having Haley talk – and occasionally, react to – the audience. It’s a frightening challenge for any actor, but Carney takes to it quite naturally. And better yet, quite believably. It’s a fun performance from start to finish.
“Bad Dates” runs Thu.-Sun. at the BoarsHead Theater, 425 S. Grand, Lansing, through Feb. 12. Tickets: $21-$33. For information: 517-484-7805 or www.boarshead.org.
The Bottom Line: What could be a cool companion piece to “Menopause the Musical” will likely play better to women than to men, but nonetheless, “Bad Dates” is good – and entertaining – theater!