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STREAMING THEATER REVIEW Bad Dates
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2020-08-11

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Playwright: Theresa Rebeck

At: Online. Tickets: $25-$50; OilLampTheater.org . Runs through: Aug. 23

Fashion being an integral element in romantic fiction, we are not surprised to first discover our heroine in her boudoir, readying herself for a date.

Nor are we surprised that this process involves selecting precisely the right footwear from among the 600 pairs of exquisitely crafted, prohibitively priced, motile-counterproductive shoes boxed up under the bed, hanging in bags on the closet door and lined up on the adjacent bench—but don't settle back for a summer wallow in Material-Girl fantasy just yet. What Theresa Rebeck has written is nothing less than a morality fable, so pay attention.

Haley Walker is a divorced single mom who fled her native Texas eight years earlier for New York City, where she discarded her accent and found work as a server in a swanky Manhattan eatery owned by a clan of Romanian mobsters. After rising to the powerful position of restaurant manager, she is now comfortable in her rent-controlled apartment with her teenage daughter attending private school and has decided that the time is right to start socializing again.

Despite the savvy counsel of her supportive gay brother and free-spirit girlfriend, however, Haley's initial forays into the realm of sexual negotiation all end badly—not because the candidates for Mister Right are quickly revealed to be rude, egocentric, lying trolls ( even the mom-endorsed college professor turns out to be a "big ol' homo" who makes no secret of his sexism or heterophobia ), but due to the increasingly disturbing similarities between their boorish behavior and her own exploitive stratagems. When finally called to account for her past deeds—undertaken with noble intent, but illegal all the same ( Did I mention her employers' money-laundering operation? )—salvation arrives garbed in humility, confession and a previously rejected Galahad well-versed at assistance in moments of crisis.

A list of feminine woes recounted in slumber-party idiom by a lone gamine stripping to her undies and suiting up in urban-sexy camo could swiftly reduce itself to sitcom-ish mannerisms reflecting a stereotype encompassing more than one demographic, as evidenced by a 2018 production featuring an African-American Haley. Recognizing this, Oil Lamp Theater director Elizabeth Mazur Levin and actor Lisa Dawn deliver uniformly intelligent text interpretation—never permitting their narrator's size six-petite wardrobe to eclipse Rebeck's caveat on succumbing to the very deceptions we so deplore in others.

Phase Four might be slow in reintroducing indoor entertainment; however, in the meantime, Oil Lamp offers its audiences two options, both currently permitted under shutdown restrictions. They involve following a drive-in opening-night gala in a parking lot, where the taped production ( filmed in continuous sequence by videographer Elliot Burlingham and microphone operator Michael Dritto to approximate live-performance conditions ) was broadcast via LED screens and car radios tuned to FM, the show reverts to online streaming for playgoers to watch at home—preferably with their feet up and shoes off.


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