I don’t remember what prompted me to want to see The Mating Game at Tarragon Theatre (Mainspace) by RewritesRewires at the Toronto Fringe Festival. I think I was attracted to the idea of people having to adapt to the dating scene again, including getting used to technology that didn’t exist or wasn’t well developed when they were younger. I find change difficult, so I could relate to many elements of the show.
The Mating Game felt more exciting than the rather short description on its Fringe event page indicates. There was audience participation, laughs, and multiple costume changes. Dennie Theodore’s writing set the stage for an intriguing look at how to adjust to dating again when one is over 40.
A woman handed patrons of the show little packages of candy hearts along with a business card about The Mating Game as we entered the auditorium. I thought this was a nice touch. Shortly after the doors closed, we were plunged into darkness and heard an itinerary of things that people wanted out of dating: sex, companionship, not to die alone, etc.
Then a spotlight focused on a lone figure, the woman who handed us the candy at the door. She (Nawa Nicole Simon) introduced herself as Liz and described feeling frustrated that people in her life insisted she starts dating again after her divorce. Liz invited the audience to join her on her journey to find love again, and then the real plot of the show began.
The main story involves Liz writing an online advice column called The Mating Game, for older divorced people looking to find love again. Liz has to deal with the editor of the online paper (Luciano Iogna), who pushes her to date before she’s really ready. There are side sketches about the perils of older adult dating too.
Luciano Iogna and Nawa Nicole Simon have good chemistry together, and make the main plot seem believable without being too over-the-top. The funniest moments, however, were the letters to The Mating Game, and some of the side sketches. I particularly enjoyed the letter written by Shaggy, and Liz’s subsequent response. The most memorable side sketch was when Iogna and Simon play construction workers talking about the modern dating scene; they brilliantly come up with having dating trading cards!
Iogna and Simon played a variety of characters and used various props to differentiate them from each other. Both actors are clearly talented, but the standout for me was Nawa Nicole Simon. She portrayed Liz with quiet confidence, and masterfully changed her voice and mannerisms to suit every character she played.
The audience participation kept everyone on their toes. It was fun to hear people yell out suggestions at one point, and see fellow audience members participate in a game at another. I think that audience members over 40 will probably relate to this show the most- single or not. The Mating Game was a unique experience, and I enjoyed myself.
- The Mating Game plays at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace. (30 Bridgman 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; Sexual content; Audience participation.
- This venue is barrier-free. Designated accessible seating is in the middle of the auditorium.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Friday July 6th, 5:15 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 7:30 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 6:45 pm
- Tuesday July 10th, 1:15 pm
- Thursday July 12th, 9:15 pm
- Friday July 13th, 11:00 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 5:15 pm
The Mating Game Poster provided by the company.