BWW Reviews: Spark Theater's CASUAL ENCOUNTERS/MISSED CONNECTIONS - Super Cute and Hilarious!
Spark Theater presents the world premiere of CASUAL ENCOUNTERS / MISSED CONNECTIONS, a fascinating play based entirely on Craigslist ads, playing now through February 18th. This show is a labor of love that started as research for a cultural anthropology project six years ago and evolved into this insightful script. An original work by local playwright Sean Paul Mahoney, this play contains authentic Craigslist ads and was fully developed within the past year – a perfect blend of posts, responses, and readers’ personalities. Contemporary and fresh, CE/MC illustrates the conundrums of contemporary urban life. Who knew Craigslist could be so fun...and so profoundly touching?
Upon entrance, we were handed programs that read like Craigslist ads (designed by the ingenious Michael Emmitt, who, you may recall, served up our programs in red SOLO cups for Two Gents of Verona a couple of months back) and the saucy sound stylings of Lily Allen, which I thought was wholly appropriate for this show. I loved that the preamble was headlines from casual encounter ads given to us by the glow of cell phones and that language was not censored at all by this saucy group. Now, in order to truly appreciate this sweet and irreverent show, we must explore scene by scene, without giving too much away...
1. Hello (m4m-24) - This humorous scene set the tone for the show. It’s roommates navigating
their way through setting up a casual encounters ad. The bumbling straight guy and
flamboyant gay guy make for a hilarious odd couple.
2. Portrait (b4w-30) - All I can say is that the costume almost made me wet myself! This fabulous
monologue explores the idea that the beaver (yes, THAT beaver) is sacred. Eve Ensler would
3. Be Your Own Baby (w4m-38) - "I've never done anything like this!" This is an endearing scene
about desperate times calling for desperate measures. A woman whose biological clock is
ticking away is in search of a baby daddy and uses Craigslist as a last resort. This testimonial-
style scene is funny and touching and the woman quirky, sad, and so real.
4. The Power of Positive Thinking (m4m-50) - This haunting monologue addresses the alienation
of HIV+ men on the internet. It’s a bittersweet look at the troubles poz guys face when hooking
up. A powerful scene.
5. Exclamation Points of Interest (w4w-28) "No lesbian is that excited about anything!" This
lesbian encounter is beautiful and laugh-out-loud funny once the all dots get connected. The
lesbian stereotypes described are spot on and shrewdly witty (exclamation point!!!)
6. Super Cute and Hilarious (w4m-28) - In this scene we veer into Act II with the Missed
Connections category, complete with a set change done in an innovative way. Casual
Encounters may appear right above Missed Connections on Craigslist, but they’re worlds
apart, as the ads illustrate. This bubbly monologue about finding yourself in the Missed
Connections category is, well, super cute and hilarious!
7. Operation Starbucks (mw4m-41) - This one mocks the whole Starbucks craze (which should
be mocked). This scene recants the tale of two Starbucks employees’ humanitarian mission
that goes horribly wrong. They take pity on a poor single guy and decide to buy him coffee in
the guise of an anonymous woman admirer. Things spiral out of control (how could they not?)
much to their dismay and our humor.
8. Meet Craig (w4m-26) - Raises the question, "What if Craig were God?" A young woman
prepares an ad, but Craig intervenes to save her from herself. This scene is adorable and
innocent and confirms once and for all that the Almighty Craig has your back (‘cuz you know
you were wondering).
9. The Great Panty Caper (w4mw-35) - This one feels very much like a match.com ad and
is utterly charming. This testimonial-style scene is based on fact – someone actually stole
a woman’s panty from an open car and took nothing else. The responses to this post are
hilarious and the whole scenario confirms that true love CAN come from a covert panty raid.
10. Gym to Him (mm4m-29) - "Only gay guys post about the gym on Missed Connections!" In this
short, funny scene a straight guy gets harassed by a couple of macho queers for stomping on their turf.
11. The Frog Prince (m4w-44) - "I love you....from.....A Frog." This is probably the most winning
story of them all. Three readers relate the tale of the Frog Prince through a series of letters,
which are simply poem entries delivered on an epically heartbreaking level. This dark scene is
bittersweet and left us wanting more. (Sequel? Please?)
The talented ensemble, comprised of Broderick Ballantyne, David Ballew, Kat Atwell, Laura
Lounge, Peter Nemenoff, and Samantha Long are strong in their various, rotating characters and
work well together. The cast, along with director Michael Emmitt and assistant director Matt Lang, build seamless transitions between the multiple vignettes. This could have easily been a choppy presentation of disconnected stories, but the writing flows flawlessly with humor and sass. I predict that this time next year comedy troupes and improv groups will have discovered this gem of an idea and will be soliciting audiences across the nation.
Whether or not you met your “connection” on Craigslist, this is a date night you don’t want to miss – and just in time for Valentine's Day! The world premiere of CASUAL ENCOUNTERS / MISSED CONNECTIONS is captivating audiences now through February 18th. For tickets or information, visit Spark’s website at www.sparktheater.org.
FYI: This Casual Encounter is into: laughs, inappropriate jokes, cuddling
Not into: kids (adults only!), negativity, mullets
PHOTO CREDIT: Meghan Ralph