Adventures in Mating
nytheatre.com review by Robin Reed
January 15, 2007
I'm a total sucker for '80s nostalgia. Count me in for anything that even remotely resembles anything I remember from the sixth grade! That's part of why I jumped at the opportunity to cover Adventures in Mating, a quirky and fun new show playing at Jimmy's No. 43 in the East Village. The other reason was that I had neither heard of nor been to the venue, and was curious to check out something in my neighborhood. On both counts, I was pleasantly surprised.
First, the venue: a small restaurant and bar on East 7th Street. To enter, you go down the stairs to just below street level. With a speakeasy feel, Jimmy's reminds me of a New York we don't live in anymore—obscure, oddly mysterious, literally and figuratively underground and hiding a little cabaret theater in the back. Genius.
Adventures in Mating is a great fit for this space. The play focuses on a couple on their first date. A blind date. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, huh? Well, the choice is up to you (and your audience compatriots). That's right. Childhood nostalgia gets the royal treatment here: the play is written in the style of the popular "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. Does the guy get lucky? It's up to you. Does the girl meet her dream guy? Up to you. When the waiter rings his bell, it's time for the audience to band together and decide.
Writer Joseph Scrimshaw has created 30 separate scenes (that's what the waiter said, and I took his word for it) from which the audience chooses, as well as two delightfully detailed characters. The constants are these: Actress Bree O'Connor plays Miranda Jane Walker. Miranda proofreads and edits text for dustjackets, has 28 cats (and she brings photos on the date), is about to turn 30 (next year) and desperately wants to be married. Actor Ben Perry plays Jeffrey Aaron Pickman. Jeffrey apologizes a lot, is divorced and knows a lot about Star Wars. They are a strange couple of folks, and putting them together seems just, well, like the cruel fate that blind dates can bring. But these smart and committed actors do well to imbue their batty characters with endearing and sincere charm.
The rest is literally up to you. The bell rings. Should Jeffrey choose red wine (what he wants) or white wine (what she wants)? The bell rings. Should indecisive Jeffrey have the "gourmet dish made from many different items" or the cheeseburger? The bell rings. Should Jeffrey have a sudden and odd accident that kills him on the way to the restroom?
There are about six choices in all, and I'm not sure we made the best decisions each time, but it was a fun game to play. The waiter, devilishly played by the sharp Steve Chappell, does seem to have favorites amongst the choices and at times it became clear that we should do as he suggests, but I got the feeling that we were free to choose anything. At one point we made a choice that made the show come to an abrupt end, the way those darned books often could, and he basically gave us a do-over so the show could go on.
At just around an hour (at least with the choice combinations we made), Adventures in Mating is a fun show from a young and exuberant company. Bring a bunch of friends and make the show wacky as can be, or make some new friends in the democracy that is audience choice.