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Play/Date: In brief
Audiences are encouraged to play along on social media as they navigate an immersive anthology of 17 works about dating in New York City, by playwrights including Greg Kotis, Clay McLeod Chapman and Chad Beckim. The evening is conceived by Blake McCarty; 3LD's Michael Counts directs.
Play/Date: Theater review by David Cote
Dating in New York: an exercise in masochism practiced by those who lost the capacity to feel pain. Unless you happen to be irresistibly sexy or wildly undiscriminating, hooking up is hard work. We’ve all gone through some nightmare scenario: imbibing too much courage in advance, thus getting progressively blotto at the table; or your date is the one who shows up unappealingly tipsy; maybe the night drags on for an eternity, as mutual loathing builds; or it ends prematurely, thanks to a handy “emergency” text; or you’re just bored. The variations are endless, and you see many of them—augmented by social media and fluid sexual identities—in Play/Date, an environmental, prismatic survey of the modern mating game.
This complex, multi-level installation—encompassing plays by 17 different writers and a cast of about 20 scattered through the Lower East Side club Fat Baby—is immersive, but not really interactive. We are instructed from the get-go to observe, not interfere, with the characters. So you can sit next to two guys flirting on a banquette, or head upstairs to ogle the topless guy and girl, and then pivot to an adorably quirky couple (she re-creates The Lion King with sock puppets). Some characters simply sit at media centers, texting into their phones. Don’t try to pick anyone up or get in on the action. It’s like walking around a dating mausoleum, where horny ghosts glide by. Unfortunately, conceiver Blake McCarty might have edited a bit; at two intermissionless hours (you can come and go as you please), the affair cools a bit.
Also, given the built-in cacophony, proliferating micro-narratives and choose-your-own-adventure openness, it’s tricky (if not pointless) to judge the quality of any script or performance. Director Michael Counts, whose CV includes avant-garde extravaganzas in the late ’90s and magisterial mise-en-scène with the late New York City Opera, does impressive detail work while keeping the many-armed machine grinding efficiently. The cast is attractive and game, the cocktails aren’t too watered down, and, depending on your age (cough, cough) or marital status (cough, cough) you may find yourself buffeted by waves of nostalgia for late nights, crowded bars and the callow thrill of conquest. As far as dates go, you may not get lucky, but you’ll get out of the house.—Theater review by David Cote
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote