Reviewed by Sarah Roche
I really wanted to love this play. It was right up my alley — a local playwright, a local premiere with the college theater group, an intimate setting in BCC’s Little Theatre, a $3 ticket fee and a comedy based on Internet dating. I had been looking forward to this show all week.
A Date With Fate, a four-scene, one-act play by Laura Cunningham, debuted last weekend at Broome Community College. The April 29 audience was very receptive, laughing often at the dialogue and situations in this play focusing on a group of New York City friends in a bar who decide to turn to the Internet to find love. One has success; one doesn’t amid the non-stop one-liners and quips.
The playwright was kind enough to make herself available after the performance to discuss her inspirations and answer any questions. Those who stayed were very congratulatory and commented on how much they enjoyed the topic and humor. I wish I could say I was one of them, but I left very disappointed. Cunningham mentioned that she wrote the play after her daughter’s friend had a disastrous online dating experience. I think that’s my problem; the whole play feels twice removed. The playwright was far enough away from the Internet dating scene to only get the stories, not the actual reality involved in meeting people through a digital medium.
Perhaps my expectations were too high. I had hoped the playwright would explore the intricacies and minefields at the intersection of dating and technology, and maybe that’s too much to ask of a one-act play. However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want a play to offer depth in its characters.
Each character was a parody of life in the “Big City.” Think Friends meets the TNT edited version of Sex and the City in a bar. The most offensive and cartoonish of these was the ridiculously over-the-top, stereotypically flamboyantly gay friend, Sam, whose only purpose was to be sassy. This character even had a quick “light-stepped” dance number that served no purpose but to highlight that he was flamboyantly gay. I was really disappointed to think that openly gay characters have been featured in media for over two decades now, and this is still how their characters are portrayed — as nothing more than a parody.
In addition to the super-gay character, there was the vapid princess, Lilly, who puts on glasses and messes up her hair because she is “too pretty” to find true love; her superficial friend Isabella; Johnny, the bartender with heart of gold, and the misplaced gypsy, Sizma. The most complex character in the play was written in at the last-minute to fill a part: Chastity, the condom salesperson, who drinks virgin bloody marys. But even this character is over-the-top, seemingly written with the sole purpose of being a contradiction.
I will say that is seems that I was in the minority with my opinions about the play. Overall, the audience was very receptive,and the commentary during the author dialogue was very complimentary. Originally the playwright had intended this to be a musical and has plans to create a full-length play from BCCs one-act workshop.
One of the questions asked by an audience member was whether anyone had done research for the role by creating a profile on a dating website. At that point it became apparent to me that I was probably the only one in the entire theater with legitimate experience in the online dating world.
The actors were young and enthusiastic; at times they attempted to out-perform each other, but overall their performances were solid. I did think, that in such a small theater, their performances would have been enhanced by more subtlety, but I thought that way about the play overall and this is probably an effect of my frustration with the content by the end of the performance. Perhaps the most notable performance of the evening was the series of love songs performed on guitar by Paul Sweeney.
In the end, it was light-hearted theater candy, filled with one liners. There were only two performances; if it returns to BCC, I would recommend it if you are looking for something very light with some laughs.