Sunday, May 01, 2005

Bad Dates (Cleveland Play House)

Where did they get all those shoes for CPH's BAD DATES?

‘BAD DATES,’ now on stage at the Cleveland Play House, isn’t so much a bad date as it is an unmemorable one. On the way home from the theatre I could remember laughing at the goings-on of the main character who is a restaurant manager, shoe connoisseur, mother and frustrated divorced woman named Haley Walker. What I laughed at, or why I was neither bored nor entranced, weren’t part of my active memory bank. What is there is the image of all the shoes in Haley’s apartment, and all the footwear piled in the closets of the other apartments pictured and wondering, “Where did they get all those shoes?”

If the major thing I can remember is the shoes, then something had to be off-kilter. It’s not usually the purpose of a play to leave a single visual. That is, unless it’s a play about Imelda Marcos and we learned that the footwear were signs of her extravagance while the peasants didn’t have enough food. Or, trying to get us to accept that ‘SEX AND THE CITY’ is now in reruns and we’ll never hear Kerry Bradshaw moaning afresh about paying $400 for Manolo Blahnik’s latest footwear designs.

Okay, Roy think hard...what did you learn as Haley related a series of tales from her past as she tried on shoes, changed clothes, and had one-sided conversations with her daughter? Let’s see, I learned that there is a bizarre social ritual between men and women that is the basis for the continuation of the human species. I learned that hearing about some else’s bad dates is better than having to experience them myself. I learned that Haley’s path toward finding Mr. Right was littered with encounters with colorful suitors such as Cholesterol Man and Bug Guy. I gained insight into how women fret about the “perfect outfit” and despair over a poorly-fitting pair of Chanel pumps. I gained a new insight into Joan Crawford and her famous “do me” pumps. And, I was exposed to the concept that “Maybe men and women were not put on this earth to torture each other. Maybe they were put on earth because they need each other.” Hey, maybe there was a message, but what was it?

Hawking, the solo performer, established a rapport with the audience by addressing us with a welcoming smile and attitude. Though adept at delivering the author’s dryly witty observations about human interaction, she is also capable of holding attention in the most serious moments. In spite of this, at times she seems a little more actress than person, especially when she isolates syllables in words and over-articulates words and phrases.

Narelle Sissons has provided an attractive New York apartment, while Miranda Hoffman's wide array of costumes clearly represents Haley at each point in the play's roller coaster of events.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: There is nothing really great or terrible about CPH’S ‘BAD DATE.’ That’s both the good news and the bad news. Well, for me there is some bad news…I’m still wondering why nowhere in the program are thanks offered to the source of all that footwear. Well, I guess I did get fixated. Too bad it wasn’t whatever message there was in the play.

FOOTnote (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun): And so the curtain drops on the Peter Hackett era at CPH. ‘BAD DATES’ is the last of the plays selected by the departed CPH Artistic Director. As had been the case in recent past seasons, this year’s script choices were problematic. It is now time to forget the past and move forward. Next season’s offerings are the brain-child of Michael Bloom, the new Artistic Director. I look forward to next season with renewed hope for The Cleveland Play House.