BWW Review: Comedy Prevails in Pittsburgh CLO's FIRST DATE
A first impression can last a long time. If you go on a blind date, the better half of the evening could be spent altering the misconception of the first few seconds. A similar thing happened when I saw Pittsburgh CLO's production of First Date.
Adapted from the Broadway show to fit a more Pittsburgh crowd, the show follows blind-dating-newcomer, Aaron, and nice-guy-repelling-expert, Casey, on their first date as three other members of the cast interject as both projections of their imaginations and figures of reality. With this pared down ensemble trio opening the show, weak vocals immediately made me fear for the next hundred minutes of my theatrical life; but as with many impressions, mine was changed through the quality acting of the cast.
Awkward Aaron and callous Casey, played by Pittsburgh natives Luke Halferty and Caroline Nicolian, respectively, took to the bar for the first half of their date. This stage was situated against the far wall and had a thrust runway connecting it to a smaller stage - one raised with a dining table atop and in the center of the theatre. The physical stage and the overall staging of this show were done brilliantly. When I saw the original Broadway production in 2013, I felt disconnected from the bar scene on stage. The immersion of the Pittsburgh production, however, placed the action smack dab in the middle of the Cabaret Theatre. As the overwhelming majority of the show took place in the bar/restaurant, it was as if the actors were amongst the crowd. I have never seen a more appropriately fit for the cabaret than with this show.
In addition to the space itself, convincing acting carried the show. Originally produced with a cast of seven, the three members of the ensemble, who play multiple different characters, had their work cut out for them. Praise must go to Maggie Carr, who played seven distinctly different characters in the show, each with different voices and mannerisms. Balancing Carr were Connor McCanlus and David Toole. McCanlus, who portrayed three characters, including Head Waiter, entertained effortlessly while Toole demonstrated his undeniably humorous versatility by playing both a "GBF" and a "bro," among other characters.
The chemistry between the plot drivers Aaron and Casey lacked, though. For Nicolian, serenading the crowd was not an issue. Rather, what appeared to be her naturally pleasant personality overshadowed her character's supposedly blunt and edgy persona while her simple red dress contradicted her character's "artsy" and "indie" style. Halferty, on the other hand, seemed to find better chemistry with the audience, embracing his gauche self and timing many of his jokes aptly.
As a whole, the production was able to win me over by the end of the show. The humor written throughout the work and the captivating delivery thoroughly entertained all in the theatre. Truly, the CLO production is the best ticket in Pittsburgh this season. First Date runs through May 8.