Do you remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books like "The Cave of Time" from when you were a kid? The kind that would give you choices on how the story would continue like, "If you continue toward the ranch, turn to page 8. If you go back into the cave, turn to page 10." Well, Theater Schmeater's current production of "Adventures in Mating" by Joseph Scrimshaw has taken that formula and amped it up into a hilarious and rollicking evening where the audience decides the fate of two lonely people on a blind date.
With 96 possible variations of the play at their disposal, we follow Miranda (Teri Lazzara) and Jeffrey (Alexander Samuels), two forlorn misfits out on a blind date trying to give love one more try. And so they end up at Café Surprise with their Waiter (Brandon Ryan) who's attitude and disdain for his customers are front and center as he insists everything be just so. All of this doesn't help these two struggle through their own neuroses. On top of that their fate is squarely in the hands of the audience and I do mean fate as some of our choices can even result in death for them. But beyond an exciting participatory experience, the script trods through the minefield of dating with wild, raucous abandon creating one of the funniest shows I've seen in some time. I was actually tired from laughing so hard by the end.
This is due in no small part to the exceptional performances of the cast. Lazzara is exquisite as she portrays this potential cat lady trying desperately to break out of her impending spinsterhood. And Samuels is pitch perfect as the nerdy, socially awkward schlub. Both of them manage their characters with warmth and care and never take them over the top into stereotypes. Ryan's performance as the waiter is one for the ages. He not only serves as an obstacle to this evening of romantic bliss but also as our guide through the choices we need to make. He does so, weaving in and out of his various personas with ease, grace and lightning quick timing. And with a performance that could result in chaos, he takes it with laser focus and thought and turns every moment into a potential show stopper.
With superb direction from Peggy Gannon which had to be a challenge trying to keep all the potential paths in check, "Adventures in Mating" is a must see for the season. I can see why they picked this one up again, as Theater Schmeater has done it before with great success. But if you think you've already seen it (even with all the possible variations) this is a different show as it has been updated from its previous run back in 2008. So grab a date (which is bound to go better than Miranda and Jeffrey's) and catch this one before it's gone. And start deciding now. Will it be the red, white or rosé wine?
"Adventures in Mating" performs at Theater Schmeater through August 20th. For ticket or information, contact the Theater Schmeater box office at 206-324-5801 or visit them online at www.schmeater.org.
Photo credit: R MacStravic