Rebecca Northan (right - as Mimi) with her BLIND DATE. Photo by Greg Tjepkema.
BOTTOM LINE: A very entertaining live blind date happening in front of your eyes with a skilled improviser and comedienne.
I recently met Mimi. She is French, full of personality, fun, creative and has a red clown nose (but don’t tell her that I mentioned the nose). A fellow audience member made a comment about her nose at the performance I attended, and Mimi stopped the show to express her hurt feelings. Wouldn’t you feel bad about yourself if someone commented on your physical abnormalities? Mimi is a clown, but not exactly a circus clown; as any great clown does, she possesses a sense of wonder and innocence. Not that she isn’t grounded. In fact, she is very witty and quite down to earth. Unfortunately, at every performance of Blind Date, she finds herself stood up.
What’s a girl to do? Pluck another date right out of the audience, of course! In Blind Date, Mimi invites someone to join her on stage at a French café. They talk. They find out about each other. They exchange interests. Oh, and they drink wine. As a matter of fact, everyone in the audience gets to drink wine if they choose. The waiters in the café are found in the theater and entryway before the show starts so every audience members can enjoy a glass themselves. Of course, not every date goes smoothly and the gentleman suitor might have a little trouble saying the right things. The solution? A timeout box. Here Mimi can converse with the date and coach him on how to perform a little bit better. Mimi can also get the help and approval of the audience on how the gentleman can improve his manners or romantic moves. And the date evolves. It isn’t just talking: the music starts and perhaps they will dance.
The audience doesn’t really know what is going to happen with the improvised nature of the show. The performance I saw involved a date with a 24-year old accountant from Manhattan. Most fun to watch are the vulnerable moments that we are all familiar with as the date plays out on stage. Do you ask her to dance? Do you pay for the check? How do you keep the conversation going in a good way? If something doesn’t go right, it’s back to the timeout box. In a lot of ways the audience is rooting for the date to go well -- the pitfalls are just part of the adventure.
The fun thing to watch is how the date progresses. They eventually leave the café and go to other locations with Rebecca Northan, as Mimi, deftly improvising along the way. There is a bit of audience interaction that can determine where the show goes, but for the most part a structure has been predetermined. This means it is not purely improv, the locations do not get stale and the show moves right along. With each different location, Northan gets to flex more of her comedic muscles. Some bits are physical and huge, some are smart and small. In some instances she sets the date up for some laugh-out-loud moments.
This is a very adventurous piece of theater that is quite light-hearted. Ars Nova is transformed into a quaint café with wine and snacks are provided, and plenty of French accents. It’d be a fun show to bring a date of your own to and a different evening entertainment. Actors, improvisers and clowns should check this out to see a talented artist utilizing several performance skills. Blind Date isn't groundbreaking theatre (unless, perhaps you're Mimi's date), but it sure is a lot of fun.
(Blind Date plays at The Ars Nova Building, 511 West 54th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, through December 20, 2010. Performances are Mondays at 8PM, Thursdays & Fridays at 8PM, Saturdays at 7PM & 10PM and Sundays at 7PM. Tickets are $40 with $20 cash only student rush tickets available at the box office. Tickets can be purchased at www.BlindDateNYC.com or by calling 866.811.4111.)