Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Bad Dates
Cinnabar Theater
Review by Patrick Thomas | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Sagittarius Ponderosa and A Song at Twilight

Jennifer King
Photo by Eric Chazankin
Haley Walker is living a rather binary life. At work (she manages a trendy New York restaurant), she's in charge and firing on all cylinders. But at home in her apartment (where all the action in Bad Dates takes place), things are quite a bit more chaotic. The bed is unmade, dresser drawers are half open with clothes spilling out, her vanity is a mess and there are shoes everywhere: on the bed, under the bed, in boxes and hampers. Everywhere. Her life is laid out for us to see. Almost nothing is hidden.

In this insightful and hilarious comedy, playwright Teresa Rebeck has created a character who is open and loving and hospitable, one who demolishes the theatrical fourth wall, drawing the audience deep into her world—so much so that the audience feels open to answer back to her not-so-rhetorical questions, and it doesn't feel the slightest bit wrong. As Haley, the excellent Jennifer King treats the audience with the same familiarity and friendliness that she offers to her friends and family members—who remain offstage and unseen, for this is a solo performance.

After a long period of singleness, when she was laser-focused on her job, Haley has decided to come out of her social shell and put herself back into the romantic swing of things. As we watch her choose outfits for a series of the titular bad dates, one can't help but think that Rebeck intended the shoes and clothes to be a metaphor for the many roles a person plays in their life. Who is Haley now? Mother? Restaurant manager? Lover? All these and more? She certainly has the shoe wardrobe for it.

Regardless of the underlying themes, the most important thing happening on stage is the connection between character and audience. There really is no fourth wall here, only a mostly one-sided conversation that is true enough to be both funny and touching. As Haley, Jennifer King is a perfect choice. She imbues the character, a sassy thing from south Texas, with tremendous heart and palpable sincerity. Though I think King could have milked even bigger laughs from the packed house at Cinnabar Theater by allowing a few of the setups to breathe a bit before she hit the punch line, that shouldn't in the slightest keep you from making the trip to Petaluma, for everything about this production is top notch.

The set by Cinnabar regular Wayne Hovey is marvelous. It's capacious enough to allow King the space she needs but cramped and chaotic enough to lay bare the tumult in Haley's life. Lighting by newcomer Robin DeLuca is lovely: both bold and delicate in just the right balance. Music and sound design—a collaboration between sound designer Jim Peterson and director Molly Noble—sets the appropriate mood and even reveals character. As director, Noble deserves significant praise for this production, bringing all elements together in a seamless and entertaining whole.

Bad Dates is anything but, so grab a loved one (or a hoped-to-be loved one) and get yourself to Petaluma's Cinnabar Theater. My suggestion? Get your tickets soon, as I predict word of mouth on this winner is already spreading across the North Bay, and you'll be sorry if you miss this delightful February fare. Oh—and come early and sit down front, where Haley Walker can truly welcome you into her world.

Bad Dates runs through February 21, 2016, at the Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd North, Petaluma. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 general, $15 for those 21 and under, $5 more for February 14 matinee. Tickets and additional information are available at or by calling 707-763-8920.

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