Theresa Rebeck’s comedy, Bad Dates, was a box-office hit in 2005 (the Cincinnati-born playwright’s script was produced at numerous American regional theaters for several seasons), and the Playhouse clearly has high expectations for its revival, scheduled until mid-June. Staged by Michael Evan Haney (who also directed the production 12 years ago), it’s a chick-flick story about a woman who divorced her husband in Texas and fled to New York City with her young daughter.
Haley (Vivia Font) was working as a waitress when a stroke of luck — bad for the money-laundering owners, good for her — put her in a position to make changes that resulted in booming business for the restaurant. Feeling good about that success, she’s decided to dive back into the dating pool, but her luck hasn’t yet reached that arena. The show is an easygoing, two-act monologue, set in Haley’s bedroom as she dresses for her evenings out, with a lot of emphasis on the right shoes. (In the first act, she has more than 50 pairs to choose from, under her bed and arrayed around the stage’s edge.) Her pre-date optimism inevitably leads to hilarious narratives recounting the disaster she’s survived.
Font is charming, delivering a deliciously sweet but uninhibited girl-next-door performance as she wittily describes her misadventures. She addresses the audience and jumps on impromptu moments: On opening night, she greeted two late arrivals with a jaunty “Hello, welcome!” Font wholly draws you into Haley’s story, evoking gasps, smiles and even a few tears as her romantic rollercoaster gets away from her — not to mention the shady side of skimmed restaurant revenue.
Nevertheless, by show’s end, she’s found her way back to life and the possibility of happiness, so we’re cheering for her. Bad Dates is not profound, but it’s very entertaining.
BAD DATES, presented by the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, concludes on June 12.