Watching Blind Dateis so much like falling in love that it feels a bit like the real thing is happening.
The concept for the show is fantastic. Rebecca Northan had the idea nine years ago and the performance I saw on Wednesday night was number 712. In the hetero form of Blind Date—there’s also a queer version—Mimi, a female red-nosed clown (Tess Degenstein on opening night) picks a man from the audience, having chatted with folks in the lobby and sussed them out beforehand. Then, for the duration of the 75-minute performance, Mimi goes on an improvised date with the guy.
Doing this much improv with an audience volunteer is the theatrical equivalent of skydiving—with a borrowed parachute.
So there’s a lot of risk here, just as there is with real-life romantic involvement. Sitting in the audience, you can’t help but be aware of it, but you open your heart anyway—even more than you would at most shows—because that’s an audience member up there for God’s sake, allowing himself to be ridiculously vulnerable. It could be you. So you loosen your boundaries and invest.
And you just keep investing because the format of the show is purpose-built to keep our proxy, Mimi’s date, safe. There’s a time-out area on the stage where Mimi can give the guy advice or guidance if she needs to. And a big part of her job is to bring out the best in him. At one point on opening night, Mimi’s date succumbed to nerves and made a crack he regretted. Sensing his discomfort, Degenstein’s Mimi checked in with him in the time-out area and then offered to re-do the scene—which is exactly what they did. So, like successful dating, Blind Date requires honesty and open-heartedness. Who wouldn’t love the guy for owning up to his blunder? And who wouldn’t love Mimi for supporting his good intentions?
I haven’t mentioned that Blind Date is also built for hilarity. That’s kind of crucial because this show is very, very funny. Mimi gently teases. Mimi gently pushes. And the fundamental awkwardness of real-life dating is magnified exponentially by every set of eyes in the audience. Will our guy kiss Mimi? Maybe. Maybe not. One of my favourite moments on opening night came when Mimi’s date, caught in the weirdness of existing simultaneously in real-life and fantasy, broke down in giggles and declared, “It’s just so…creepy!”
So Blind Date is a good time. By the end of the evening, I would have happily dated either Mimi or her guy. (I’m a gay man, they’re both straight, and she’s a woman, but I’m liberal.)
That’s not to say that the evening was perfect. This particular blind date was slow to get off the ground. Degenstein let Mimi’s date deflect her getting-to-know-you questions for too long so we spent too much time in interview mode and I wasn’t sure if the evening was ever going to light up.
But it did.
During the run, Degenstein will share the role of Mimi with Lili Beaudoin and Ali Froggatt. And, of course, there’ll be a different man every night—which sounds good, right?
BLIND DATE Created and directed by Rebecca Northan. A Spontaneous Theatre production on the Arts Club’s BMO Stage at the Goldcorp Theatre Centre on Wednesday, November 28. Continues until December 30.Tickets.
** I’d like to see if I can get a sense of the overall quality of this run. If you’ve seen Blind Date, what was your experience? Please leave a comment, or send me an email: email@example.com. Thanks!
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