You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bad Dates

Theresa Rebeck's new play certainly delivers on its forbidding title. A solo show in which a chipper woman recounts in wearisome detail her romantic misadventures and other assorted misfortunes, it's about as entrancing as it sounds. The play isn't just a catalog of bad dates -- it provides an occasion for them, too.

Haley - Julie White

Theresa Rebeck’s new play certainly delivers on its forbidding title. A solo show in which a chipper woman recounts in wearisome detail her romantic misadventures and other assorted misfortunes, it’s about as entrancing as it sounds. The play isn’t just a catalog of bad dates — it provides an occasion for them, too. Don’t bring your new romance.

Julie White stars as the beleaguered heroine Haley, a nice gal with bad luck. Call it typecasting, since White herself appears to be a nice gal with bad luck. She just concluded a run in the equally lamentable “Barbra’s Wedding.” Perhaps she should now write her own show, illuminating how and why bad plays happen to talented performers. She might again collaborate with John Benjamin Hickey, the fine actor who has chosen this unstageworthy piece of writing for his directing debut. Better luck next time.

The play’s divorcee narrator, Haley, opens with a disquisition on her expansive shoe collection, a subject picked clean of humorous potential by the vastly wittier Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City.” The matter arises since Haley is addressing us from her pastel-colored bedroom (impeccably realized by Derek McLane), trying on outfits to prepare for her first date in several years.

She swore off romance after fleeing a bad marriage in Texas with daughter Vera in tow, and finding uncomfortable parallels to her own situation in “Mildred Pierce.” Like that movie’s rather more redoubtable heroine, Haley runs a restaurant; hers is owned by some shady Romanians who will come to figure prominently, if incredibly, in Haley’s non-romantic mishaps.

But these take a back seat to her ill-starred evenings on the town in search of love. Hers is, of course, a situation that will strike a sympathetic chord in most hearts. Unfortunately, as written with gnawing mundanity by Rebeck, Haley’s plight isn’t universal so much as commonplace. Her dithery voice is pleasant without being distinctive (“So I’m like, okay, this is just a date that’s not going to work out”), and her experiences are both cartoonish and generic. The first guy she goes out with talks incessantly about his cholesterol level. The next one’s gay. Behind door number three is the perfect guy who turns out to be secretly seeing someone else. Yawn.

Notwithstanding the complications that land her in the police station by the play’s conclusion, Haley is not a particularly interesting character, and there’s little White and her director can do to disguise this unhappy fact. The actress has some lovely, off-kilter yelps of dismay, as when Haley emits a strangled moan of horror at a message she’s just left on the answering machine of the guy who’s stood her up. Haley’s startled stutter of a laugh at the idea that she’s finally going to have sex is priceless, too. And a three-word eulogy for a pair of shoes now tainted by a failed date — “They were cute” — is delivered with an exquisite sense of defeat.

But White and her director push too hard for pathos in the play’s late going, when Haley is callously stood up by the man she’s pinned her hopes on. The teary breakdown may well be authentic, but by this point our reserves of pity for Haley have pretty much run dry. We have to save some for ourselves, after all.

Bad Dates

Playwrights Horizons Peter Jay Sharp Theater; 96 seats; $30 top

Production: A Playwrights Horizons presentation of a play in one act by Theresa Rebeck. Directed by John Benjamin Hickey.

Creative: Set, Derek McLane; costumes, Mattie Ullrich; lighting, Frances Aronson; sound, Bruce Ellman; production stage manager, Megan Schneid. Opened, reviewed June 15,2003. Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.

Cast: Haley - Julie White

More Legit

  • CAROL CHANNING HERSCHFELD. Actress Carol Channing

    Remembering Carol Channing: A Master of Channeling the Power of Personality

    There was only one Carol Channing, and her outsize personality was a source of delight to many fans — and imitators. Gerard Alessandrini’s stage spoof “Forbidden Broadway” had many incarnations over the years, including the 1994 edition when an audience member was selected every evening to come onstage and impersonate Carol Channing with the cast. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda Among Celebrities Remembering Carol Channing

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bernadette Peters are among the slew of celebrities taking to Twitter to pay tribute to late singer, comedienne and actress Carol Channing. Known for her starring roles in Broadway’s “Hello Dolly!” and “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” the legend of the stage and screen died Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, [...]

  • What the Constitution Means to Me

    Listen: How Things Got Scary in 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    For a decade, writer-performer Heidi Schreck had wanted to write a play inspired by her experiences as a teen debater. But over the years the show started to develop into something both urgently political and deeply personal — and things got scary. In the Broadway-bound “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Schreck reimagines her speech-and-debate [...]

  • Carol Channing Dead

    Carol Channing, Star of Broadway's 'Hello, Dolly!' and 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,' Dies at 97

    Larger-than-life musical stage personality Carol Channing, who immortalized the characters of Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!,” has died. She was 97. Channing died Tuesday of natural causes at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Her publicist B. Harlan Boll confirmed the news. He wrote, “It is with [...]

  • 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    'What the Constitution Means to Me' Transfers to Broadway

    “What the Constitution Means to Me,” a buzzy Off-Broadway production that counts Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem among its fans, is making the move uptown. The play will come to Broadway this spring for a 12-week limited run at the Helen Hayes Theater. “What the Constitution Means to Me” is one part civics lesson, one [...]

  • Choir Boy review

    Broadway Review: 'Choir Boy'

    Honestly, I was afraid that “Choir Boy” — the sweetly exuberant account of a gifted prep school boy’s coming of age, written by “Moonlight” Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney — would be swallowed up in a Broadway house, after winning us over in an Off Broadway staging in 2013.  But aside from the odd set [...]

  • Jason Robert Brown

    Listen: How Ariana Grande Got Jason Robert Brown to Madison Square Garden

    Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown never expected to find himself performing onstage at Madison Square Garden. But he did — thanks to his pal Ariana Grande. Brown met Grande before she was a superstar, when she was in the 2008 Broadway cast of his teen musical “13.” The two have kept in touch ever since [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content