Shoes, everywhere shoes! They’re the most visible and defining element present onstage for “Bad Dates”, even before the play itself starts. Their very presence immediately defines their owner, but that woman, like “Bad Dates”, itself, can’t simply be taken at face value.
When Haley, the single working mom, spent the first 10 minutes trying on (and talking about) all manner of trendy shoes, I started to wonder what this play was all about. Fortunately that fear soon melted into enchantment as the very accomplished Kristen as Haley cast her charm and drew me into her perky – and downright quirky – world of divorce dating.
“Bad Dates” finds Haley at home fretting over her outfit (and her shoes) because she wants to make a good impression on this, her first real date in five years. Her last date, she confides, drew numerous comparisons between her life and the movie “Mildred Pierce.” She acknowledges there were some similarities - she was divorced, had a daughter named Vera, and was a waitress in a restaurant. She stresses, however, that she did not marry and subsequently kill her “Monte.” She simply chose never to see him again.
Now in a better frame of mind – her daughter is older, she has been promoted to manager, and she has the confidence that a successful career can bring – Haley has decided to try again. New attitude in hand (and well considered shoes on feet), she strides out the door to meet the challenge. Upon her return, she makes it eminently clear that the date went, well, rather badly.
With an adorable, playful, optimistic, and humorous quality, Kristen proceeds to amuse the audience with tales of her progressively more disastrous bad dates. She talks of Bug Guy and Wretched Companion, the first a Tibetan Buddhist she met on a retreat and the second a blind date arranged by her mother. In between she argues with her never seen daughter who plays rock music behind her closed bedroom door and spills all the gory details of her dates to her brother on the phone. She also shares her intrigue with the Romanian mob that owns her restaurant – as if there weren’t enough spice on the table already.
Perhaps what I learned about men from “Bad Dates” is in the shoes. The most attractive ones aren’t always the most comfortable. You have to find ones that fit and that complement your outfit. If they hurt and draw all the attention, get rid of them. After all, who needs to put up with a nasty blister when there’s a whole lot of walking left to do?