BWW Review: Swipe Right for BAD DATES

BWW Review: Swipe Right for BAD DATES

Bad Dates

Written by Theresa Rebeck, Directed by Jessica Stone; Scenic Design, Alexander Dodge; Costume Design, Sarah Laux; Lighting Design, David J. Weiner; Sound Design, Drew Levy; Production Stage Manager, Emily F. McMullen; Stage Manager, Jeremiah Mullane

CAST: Haneefah Wood

Performances extended through March 3 at Huntington Theatre Company, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA; Box Office 617-266-0800 or

It may sound like a paradox, but Huntington Theatre Company's Bad Dates would be a great choice for a date night. For that matter, it would be a great choice for a mother-daughter outing, a "girls' night out," or an excursion for a loner in search of some good company. From the moment that Haneefah Wood makes her entrance as Haley Walker, she virtually embraces everyone in the audience with her magnetic personality and 100-watt smile. Put aside any qualms you may have about one-person plays because Theresa Rebeck has conjured up a character with a multitude of sparkly facets and Wood is luminous while bringing her to life.

After its Off-Broadway premiere at Playwrights Horizons, Bad Dates transferred to the Huntington in 2004 with star Julie White. Owing to its popularity, Artistic Director Peter DuBois considered a remount with a different spin, reuniting the team of Director Jessica Stone and actor Wood who had worked together in HTC's production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (2015). The universality of Haley's story is reinforced by casting a woman of color in the role, but the lede should emphasize Wood's incredible comedic talent, range of expressions, and her capacity to bring the audience with her on Haley's wild journey.

For ninety joy-filled minutes, we are invited into Haley's oversized, well-appointed Manhattan bedroom, to watch her dress and undress, parade around in an astounding variety of shoes, and regale us with stories about her life. A single mother with a teenage daughter, Haley is a self-made woman who advanced from struggling waitress to manager of one of New York's hottest restaurants. Rising from the ashes of a broken marriage, she is in a good place (a rent-controlled apartment) in her life and ready to re-enter the world of dating, only to discover what a crazy minefield that can be. Anyone who has been in Haley's shoes (no pun intended) will identify and empathize with her experiences. As author Flannery O'Connor said, a good man is hard to find.

Although she is alone on stage, Haley does converse on the phone with her gay brother and a couple of friends, and offstage with her (unseen) daughter. However, the absence of the fourth wall basically makes all of us her scene partners and the energy that goes back and forth between Wood and the house is electric. It is to her credit, as well as to Rebeck's brilliant crafting of the script, that the rise and fall of the moods are equally transmitted. When something in Haley's life "goes south," we understand that the laugh is bittersweet, and we laugh with her, not at her. She does such a good job of drawing us in that we become her confederates and root for her even when she discloses some sketchy behavior. The bottom line is that Haley is a great character with a big heart and a lot of soul, and Stone and Wood collaborate to put her on the stage as a fully-realized woman that we want to spend time with.

All of the design elements contribute to the success of this seamless production. Scenic designer Alexander Dodge gives Haley an apartment to die for, including de rigueur closet space to accommodate her eclectic fashions and multitude of shoes (costume designer Sarah Laux). Lighting designer David J. Weiner and sound designer Drew Levy bracket scenes with changes in ambience and throbbing music, the latter often emanating from the teenager's offstage bedroom. There is a surprising amount of movement for a one-person show on a unit set, but Wood is constantly trying on different outfits as her character is preparing for a date. It is just one more detail in a perfectly focused performance in a perfectly delightful play. Bad Dates is all good.

Photo credit: T. Charles Erickson (Haneefah Wood)

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