Among audience members in the packed Tarragon lobby for Blind Date on opening night, there was a palpable buzz among the men as it became clear to anyone who hadn’t heard that one of the men in the audience would shortly be chosen to spend the following ninety-odd minutes onstage. With the performer. Creating (as creator and performer Rebecca Northan quipped) a “new Canadian play.” If I hadn’t been tagged as a reviewer, and therefore off limits, I freely confess that I would have been nervous too.
The true marvel of the show Northan has made, to me, is it’s sweetness and generosity. My experience of audience-participation work is that it can sometimes devolve in various ways: into one very long opportunity to take the piss out of the hapless auditor, into a snooze-fest, into awkward and mumbly meta-conversation that makes us cringe. Northan isn’t above a zinger or two, but the overall effect is much more like an actual two-hander, because she keeps the tension tuned wonderfully – making the date just awkward enough; the getting-to-know-you feel of the thing appropriately and somewhat excitingly real.
Northan begins well by choosing her date for the evening out of the minglers held in the lobby as the audience arrives so she can check everyone out. I imagine that long experience has informed how she chooses and what qualities she looks for, and it is clearly refined to the point right between science and art. On opening night, she chose a sweet young engineer named Rohan with a winning smile and relatively little dating experience who was quite excellent onstage – in large part because Northan brought it out in him. She obviously has beep experience working with different kinds of stage partners, and we as the audience are all additionally delighted by the results because we can see how unrehearsed they are.
During the show, the date occurs in three locations – at the restaurant, in a truly uproarious scene of physical comedy involving the miming of a car, and back at Mimi’s place afterwards. I found myself hooked by the idea that every show would be different, and enthusiastic about seeing it again when I realized that the date would progress, and even more when I understood that we had a choice of ending.
Blind Date is really a delight to watch, and the promise of a different show every night seems really intriguing – unscripted, vibrant, very very funny and in an important way deeply loving. It’s clear that this show works because Northan can connect in an openhearted and remarkably intimate way with each new “date” on each succeeding night.
As a reviewer, I have no higher compliment to offer a show than this: I am intending to pay to see Blind Date again. I encourage you most strongly join me.
- Blind Date plays at the Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgeman Ave.) until October 4th.
- Shows are Tuesday through Sunday at 8pm (with 7:15pm open lobby with cash bar) and Saturday & Sunday at 2:30pm.
- Tickets range in price from $28 to $60
- Tickets can be had online, by calling 416-531-1827 or in person at the box office
photo of Rebecca Northan by Michael Meehan