In the lobby after Bad Dates, I overheard an audience member saying that the show was "like a cross between Sex and the City and Bridget Jones' Diary." And as banal as that observation is, she was pretty much right.
I mean, wow. Where am I? The community just dumped how much money into converting the Armory into a performance space? And now Portland Center Stage (PCS) is asking us to pay for the privilege of watching dramatized chick lit. Not only is the script a baffling choice for PCS, but also the production itself fails to be anywhere near as diverting as the average Diane Johnson novel.
Carol Halstead plays Haley Walker, a single mom who runs a restaurant and has just decided to dip her toes back into the dating pool. She goes on a series of, you guessed it, pretty bad dates, the details of which are relayed to the audience via a 90-minute extended monologue. In a nutshell, men are pigs—and did I mention that Haley likes shoes?
She does. She really, really likes shoes. The set—a bedroom in her huge "rent-controlled" New York apartment—is lined with a dizzying array of footwear, shiny and glittery and distracting, and the show opens with Haley sliding her tootsies into one pair after another, obsessing over what to wear on a first date while babbling about how long it's been since she had a man in her life.
Somehow, this opening sequence did not endear itself to me. The situation does not improve when it becomes clear that Haley has gotten herself into some trouble with the Romanian mafia. Has any work of fiction ever been improved by invoking the Romanian mafia?
The insipidity of this production is no fault of Carol Halstead's—she does a fine job with the character. The character is just not someone that I want to be trapped in a room with for 90 minutes.
It's not that I don't think PCS should be allowed to have some fun once in a while... it's just that this show doesn't quite qualify. In fact, if I had dragged a date to this show, I'd feel guilty for having wasted his time, and afterward I probably would have put out just to change the subject.