Blind Date is risky and rewarding

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Created by Rebecca Northan. Produced by Kevin McCollum in association with LAMS Productions and presented by the Cultch in the Cultch’s Historic Theatre on Tuesday, September 18. Continues until October 7

It’s a good thing I had a seat at the end of a row; that way, when I just couldn’t laugh loud enough, I also got to stamp my feet in the aisle. Blind Date is hilarious. It’s also one of the riskiest and most generous shows I’ve seen.

Improv genius Rebecca Northan plays Mimi, a red-nosed French clown and, every night, she picks a different guy from the audience. Then, for 90 minutes, they improvise a date for us. Yes, this is like jumping out of an airplane. Fortunately, there’s a parachute: the evening has a loose structure. Mimi and her date chat in a café before driving to her apartment where they figure out how to handle the awkwardness of being alone together. Then the audience gets to choose whether the date will continue or the relationship will jump forward five years.

With her limpid brown eyes and tight red dress, Northan’s Mimi is gorgeous. Like a good therapist, she is also hugely supportive—and frank. On opening night, Mimi picked a handsome young guy named Mark from the audience. As Mark moved in for a kiss, he twisted his neck around weirdly and Mimi had lots of fun with that. But she wasn’t mean; her goal was clearly just to get her date to be more relaxed and present. When she dragged Mark over to the time-out area she had established and asked him what was up with the “slow-motion train wreck” of a neck move, he replied, “Stage fright.” And that was the nub. There’s a lot of stage fright in dating and in life in general; the point is to embrace it and keep going. In the moving conclusion of the show, Mimi praised Mark for being the hero he clearly is.

Not everything works at the same superlative level. There are a couple of scenes that involve other characters; on opening night, they were played by Bruce Horak and Jamie Northan. To me, these bits felt more predetermined and more about the new characters than the guy who was dating Mimi. I understand the need to change things up; I just wish the change-ups were more spacious.

Still, Blind Date is never less than entertaining. And who knows how things go with other dates on other nights? I, for one, plan to find out. I’ll be going back.

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