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Girls' Night In

“I honestly had a moment when I thought, if you’re siding with the guy’s ex-girlfriend? It’s not a good date.” — Haley, Bad Dates

When famed playwright Theresa Rebeck started writing Bad Dates, she wanted to explore how many different places you could take one actress in the course a single evening.

By turns emotional, funny, thrilling, and surprising, Bad Dates takes us into the central character Haley’s bedroom as she dishes and divulges one great story after another. The breadth of emotion that Rebeck captures in the play led New York magazine to call the original production: “thoroughly diverting, often touching, and ultimately wise.”

Haley starts off the play in a situation where we have all found ourselves: single, raising a 13-year-old daughter, and increasingly sure that she is in fact working for the Romanian mafia. Five years before, a late-night viewing of the Joan Crawford melodrama Mildred Pierce scared her off of dating altogether, and she has just decided to re-enter the scene — but only after catching herself longingly staring at a dinner companion that was arguing for the spiritual rights of bugs. She tells the audience of realizing with some horror: “The bug guy is looking kind of good. The things he’s saying about bugs are really kind of fascinating. It is then that I realize that maybe it has been too long since I’ve been on a date. When the bug guy starts looking good, it's time to get out of the house.”

The impulse to re-join the romantic scene leads Haley into a series of bad dates — a crescendo of baffling, bizarre, exciting, and even sexy encounters that form the fabric of this one-woman show. In Rebeck’s skilled comic hands, the stories are more than satisfying and revealing gossip; they are a portrait of Haley’s intelligence, verve, and wit, and a dynamic evening of theatre. “I [wanted to] imbue every movement with immediacy,” says Rebeck. “I wanted it to still be a play; I didn’t want it to be just somebody telling stories up there.”

Bad Dates is successful as a one-woman show because of the deep rapport that Rebeck crafts between Haley and the audience; she talks directly out to the house, without any artifice or pretense. And most importantly, throughout, Rebeck pulls deeply funny streaks through Haley’s story: wry observations on everything from Buddhist philosophy to American individualism. As in all Theresa Rebeck's plays — including the modern Pygmalion-esque satire Spike Heels and the witty meta-theatrical The Understudy — comedy isn’t just what lightens the characters, the laughs become a source of unique and cockeyed wisdom, one that can lift us out of our perspectives for a moment and put us back a little more like Haley. Comedy always feels like a defiant response to the trouble of the universe,” Rebeck says. “It seems a redemptive act to me, and necessary to buoy the human spirit.”

– CHARLES HAUGLAND


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South End / Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA: 527 Tremont Street, Boston MA 02116
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