First Dates (Clutch Performance Theatre Co.) 2018 Toronto Fringe Review

Graphic for First Dates

First Dates (produced by Clutch Performance Theatre Co.) dives into the nuances of the dreaded “first date” at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival.

Each scene in First Dates zeroes in on a different couple in the middle of their awkward first-date glory.

Each date is broken up by a short folk-inspired song courtesy of Aaron Berger and his rainbow painted guitar.

His music is undeniable and easily the best part about this low-key, endearing scene-cycle. Berger’s music has a soulfulness to it that comes off as very sincere. The soft, folky strumming kinda washes over you in a hypnotic way. Just beautiful.

The scenes were a little up and down. One of the “ups” for me involved senior actor, David Fox. His monologue at the end of the show was just so special. The audience was all aglow as they watched him strap on his vintage suspenders and tie and tenderly reminisce about his long lost love. There were several times when he called for “line” from the stage manager but it ended up working in some strange way because the monologue itself was about remembering. So despite a few forgotten lines, Fox still managed to connect to the audience with his whole heart and for that reason, he stole the show.

Another high point was what I gathered as the “middle age” phase of dating; Allegra Fulton and Ronald Lea’s restaurant scene. Watching them fumble over each other as Lea’s character experiences his first panic attack on a date was too sweet for words. These two had a chemistry and presence with each other that in my opinion, a lot of the other scenes lacked.

The scenes leading up to the older couples didn’t have the same amount of energy for some reason. I can’t really figure out why, but the first few scenes in the show weren’t nearly as funny and energetic as Fulton and Lea’s which made for a bit of a confusing tone.

I also found the individual concepts and scenarios of the dates to be a bit unoriginal. Let me explain…

A lot of the “first date” scenarios presented in First Dates have been seen before by most people on a good handful of popular sitcoms and movies. Going in, I was really hoping they would reach beyond the classic friend-zone conundrum or the accidental one-night-stand. Dating is such a broad topic for a show and I wished they had showed us some larger-than-life dating situations that are worthy of being presented on stage. The panic attack scene did that for me, but the other scenes felt almost too pedestrian.

Despite the slightly wonky script, First Dates still has some moments of brightness. Berger’s inspiring tunes and Fox’s heartfelt monologue makes the trip to St. Vladimir theatre well worth it.

Details

  • First Dates plays at the St. Vladimir Institute. (620 Spadina Ave.)
  • Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
  • Content Warnings: Mature language; Nudity.
  • This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route. After the building’s business hours, a staff member will need to escort you through this route, so plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early for evening shows.
  • Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.

Performances

  • Friday July 6th, 3:15 pm
  • Saturday July 7th, 9:15 pm
  • Monday July 9th, 5:00 pm
  • Tuesday July 10th, 1:00 pm
  • Thursday July 12th, 7:30 pm
  • Friday July 13th, 11:00 pm
  • Saturday July 14th, 3:30 pm

Photo by Jay Ginsherman

One thought on “First Dates (Clutch Performance Theatre Co.) 2018 Toronto Fringe Review”

  1. It was entertaining and I am glad that I went. I agree that it didn’t have any deep meaning or message, but the middle age couple scene did have some depth to it. The old man scene was also good. My wife thought he was intentionally calling for his lines to demonstrate how he was struggling to remember his life. I told her that I doubted that. However, the scene called for an elderly man (he looked 100) and I am glad that they had someone who fit the part so perfectly. In conclusion, while not as moving or deep as I would have preferred (ie. Naked Ballerina), it is well worth seeing. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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