Regional Reviews: Seattle
Allgood Delivers the Goods in Seattle Rep's Hilarious Bad Dates
Visions of Nutcrackers, Disney, J.M. Barrie, and of course Dickens can be as warming as holiday eggnog at Seattle theaters this time of year. The Seattle Repertory Theatre is serving up a bracing gin & tonic instead, with a tour-de-force performance by Broadway vet and Seattle resident Anne Allgood in Theresa Rebeck's darkly comic one-woman play Bad Dates.
Rebeck's Haley Walker is a forty-something, wary, wise (but not embittered) Manhattan restaurant manager who relates her wild, yet totally believable, slate of romantic misadventures with the audience as her confidante. Rebeck's script is funny, touching, disturbing and surprising, and though its episodic nature occasionally slows things down, Allison Narver's spirited direction and the spot on casting of Ms. Allgood render that a very minor liability.
The charismatic Ms.Allgood has repeatedly proven her musical theatre chops in the greater Seattle/Tacoma venues, but in Bad Dates she gets to really sink her teeth into a character, and makes a near aria out of every extended monologue. Her gifts extend to the rich ability to describe the people in Haley's life with such detail and clarity that we can totally picture them onstage with her. They range from her music-blasting 12-year-old daughter Vera, to her garrulous gay brother BJ, to her Romanian Mafioso employer Velko, but it's the dates themselves that reveal the most about Haley and how her life and philosophy changes. The representative bad dates are the "bug man" (that's all he wants to discuss), the gay law professor (a blind date arranged by her Mother), the cholesterol-obsessed guy and, worst of all, the dream date who turns out to be the biggest jerk of all. Allgood shares Haley's emotional roller coaster life with us, and the actress (whom I would compare to a lovely cross-pollination between the middle-aged incarnations of Gena Rowland and Carol Burnett) never strikes a false note.
Scenic designer Scott Weldin, lighting designer Connie Yun, and especially costume designer Melanie Taylor Burgess conspire to make this show an outstanding visual experience. The outfits (and oodles upon oodles of shoes) that Haley wears - and Allgood tirelessly changes in and out of - range from the bold to the beautiful to the bizarre, magnificently. And sound designer Steve LeGrand's well chosen music bytes are ideal. Yet, ultimately, the production's triumph is Allgood's acting and Narver's directorial flair. Seattle's lucky to have such fine artists in our midst. They make Bad Dates a great time at the theatre.Bad Dates runs through December 18, 2004 at the Leo K. at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 2nd Avenue N & Mercer in Seattle Center. For further information visit the Rep's online at www.seattlerep.org.
- David-Edward Hughes