When I was watching Bad Date: A Cautionary Tale…, produced by Aubrey Productions and playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, it occurred to me that, since I met my husband at 19, I haven’t had to go on a first date in 13 years. I certainly haven’t experienced dating where actually meeting someone in person is a novelty.
Molly (Erin Aubrey) the main character of Bad Date on the other hand, is 34 and hasn’t had sex in over a year, which leads her to text “Aleks with a k” (Christopher S. Violette) who seemed nice on set. The resulting late-night meeting at her apartment is, unsurprisingly, a truly disastrous first date/booty call, and the cringe-iest of cringe comedy. The actors are quite talented and engaging, and I’m sure this raunchy, unapologetic show will be many people’s thing. Unlike its claim about the dire need for a vibrator that doesn’t burn out, to me the show felt inessential.
I find cringe comedy to be more painful than entertaining, so that definitely coloured my enjoyment of the show. To its credit, it uses cringe quite effectively, not letting up for a moment once Aleks shows up. It’s also not afraid to embrace potentially offensive topics; there’s lots of sex, drugs, swearing and nudity featuring attractive human beings on stage.
Bad Date is a two-person show that bills itself as a musical comedy from one woman’s perspective, and it really is a one-person musical. Aleks is intrusive and bizarre, but he only sings once, purely for comedic effect, and to show how unmatched these people are. This actually adds to the discomfort, because it encourages a perception of him as a prop; it’s like the show is using him so that the lead can sing, much like the lead character eventually uses him for sex, despite her distaste for nearly everything he does (except his oral skills).
Neither character seems to be a particularly wonderful person, and this is actually refreshing. Molly’s not all good and he’s not all bad, even managing to wrest a modicum of sympathy out of the proceedings. (The date, however, is the pits. It’s still not the worst story I’ve heard.)
The quirky songs about dick pics (particularly clever) and vibrators have funny and cute moments and are well performed. A lot do tend to be variations on one joke. I felt the atmosphere grow restless during occasional pauses during the songs, and particularly during the one diagetic (music occurring as part of the actual events) slow song about a man who broke Molly’s heart twice. My lyricist heart also cringed at some slant rhymes that were not quite close enough, like “reiterate/delicate.” This being said, it’s hard to write a big, gospel-esque closing number about a sex toy for a one-woman musical, so…respect. Aubrey does have a lovely, expressive voice and is clearly game for all the physical comedy her part entails.
All in all, this is not a cautionary tale against Bad Date. If you don’t love cringe comedy, though…let’s call it a small red flag.
- Bad Date: A Cautionary Tale… plays at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace. (30 Bridgman Ave)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warnings: Unsuitable for Minors, Sexual Content, Mature Language, Nudity, Smoking.
- This venue is accessible.
- Saturday July 8th, 12:15 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 10:45 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 04:30pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 02:00 pm
- Friday July 14th, 09:15pm
- Sunday July 16th, 07:45 pm
Photo of Erin Aubrey by Erin Aubrey (self-portrait)