nytheatre.com review by Robin Rothstein
December 5, 2010
You never know exactly what’s going to happen on a blind date, but one thing is usually certain—there will be many awkward moments. In some cases, a blind date can also end up being just a generally uninteresting and disappointing experience. Rebecca Northan’s innovative but over-stretched theatrical exercise, Blind Date, unfortunately leans more towards the latter, with some awkward moments ranging from the somewhat distressing to the deliriously delightful sprinkled in between.
In this unique convergence of improvisation, performance art, and meta-theatre, Northan plays Mimi, a beautiful young French woman who also happens to be a member of the clown species. Sporting a form-fitting fire-engine-red dress, a Parisian accent, and a token red clown nose, Mimi is more Brigitte Bardot than Barnum and Bailey. Prior to the show, she is on the prowl looking for a promising patsy to be her scene partner in what will end up becoming a full out 90-minute instant play beginning with a blind date, followed by scenes that take place after the initial match-up.
The quaint and inviting Ars Nova is the perfect theatre for this kind of quirky piece. The space, with its fun and intimate feel, is in its own way also a character in the play. The classic chanteuse-style music playing in the background as you enter the theatre and the strings of soft white lights hanging overhead put you in the perfect convivial mood. To add to the fun, while the audience waits to enter the house, two nattily dressed actors warm up the crowd with free-flowing cups of wine and French-accented tête-à-têtes, making it additionally clear that what you are about to see is not going to be your typical circus act.
While there is something clearly very accomplished in the fact that this is a completely improvised 90-minute play, Blind Date does not consistently sustain your attention, and, in its execution, just simply doesn’t come off as fun as expected. I found my mind wandering during numerous slow-paced, repetitive spots, and I was ultimately left wondering what I was supposed to take away from this event. The night I attended, Northan chose a young man named Nick from the audience to play her blind date. Nick is not an actor. Nick sells orthopedic medical supplies. Nick is also a really nice guy, and really nice guys who are not actors and who sell orthopedic medical supplies, well, don’t necessarily make for a terribly engaging 90 minutes, as it turns out. That said, there were definitely some hilarious moments, mostly towards the end, as Nick began to finally loosen up from all the glasses of wine he ended up drinking throughout the show, giving Northan much more to work with, but it was too little too late.
Northan is clearly a very charming and able performer. She thinks on her feet and it is remarkable the way she is able to juggle controlling her scene partner in a gentle and respectful manner, while also keeping the story moving forward. In the end, though, the show feels more like an experiment that needs a little bit more time in the lab. And yet, just like in life, no two blind dates are ever alike, and so there is a good chance that the right chemistry on another night with another blind date could generate the kind of theatrical sparks that will make this show totally ignite.