By: Courtney Church, February 19, 2018
Rebecca Northan’s “Blind Date” is a light-hearted and spontaneous show that draws an audience member out of his seat and onto the stage for a 90-minute whirlwind of a date.
The show begins in the Grand’s lobby before the curtain rises. Mimi and her entourage of clown-nose-clad companions mingle with members of the audience, scouring the crowd to find Mimi a date for the evening.
There’s no need to fret about cold calling, though; only willing participants are considered. Once on stage, she explains that she has been stood up by her initial date and calls up her audience member of choice.
Though improv typically implies that anything can happen between the people on stage,”Blind Date” is improv of another sort, what Northan calls “Spontaneous Theatre.” This means that though the dialogue is improvised, the plot does adhere to a loose structure.
Mimi and her date meet in London’s “Church Key Cafe” where they get to know one another over wine. She then takes him on an adventure when hiccups and hilarity ensue. The nature of that hilarity is up to the dynamic between the two.
Friday’s opening night performance featured Doug, a charming Londoner with an infectious smile and adorable nervous giggle. Northan’s Mimi took everything in stride, which allowed Doug to easily slide into the role of Mimi’s date.
Aided by Northan’s ability to put people at ease, Doug and Mimi riffed off one another, speaking about things you’d typically expect on a first date-jobs, childhoods, hobbies-but also more serious topics like death and consent.
The heavier moments showed that “Blind Date” isn’t just about comedy; it’s also about the connections people make and the ways in which we communicate with one another.
Northan does not limit such connections to her and her performative suitor. She does a wonderful job of bridging the gap between house and stage and includes both her date and the audience in the show. Doug and Mimi’s banter had the audience in stitches during their lighter chats and when two bonded over the passing of their respective mothers there was a collective sigh from the audience.
Then, as the date nears its end, Northan draws on a house vote to determine the play’s final scene.
In its previous runs, “Blind Date” has featured a sparse set; the Grand, however, has gone all in with intricate backdrops for scene changes. Inspired by Mimi’s French origins, set designer Ken MacDonald has used a line sketch inspired backdrop to capture a European cityscape, complete with an accompanying city bike. The purple and blue tones are as playful and quirky as the action they frame.
Like Mimi and her date’s evening, the lighting and sound elements are also improvised. Up in the control booth lighting director, Jason Hand, and sound improviser, Jesse Lynn Northan, follow the scene and improvise the technical changes that seem so fluid on stage. At points, they take the lead- when a song began to play during Friday’s performance, Mimi inquired as to whether Doug likes to dance. Going with the flow between sound and stage he replied, “I’ll slow dance for you.”
The mantra for Northan’s “Blind Date” is “Everyone is lovable,” and the show holds firmly to that message. Mimi’s relaxed approach to the date sets the tone for a performance rooted in fun, community, and the connection with whomever she’s paired with that evening. Previous runs have featured a male Mimi equivalent and there is a queer version of the show as well, offering everyone the chance to take the stage.
Alors, bon spectacle-and to the lucky date each evening, break a leg!
Feb. 13-March 3
The Grand Theatre
Purchase tickets online
Call: (519) 672-8800
Don’t miss Keith Tomasek’s podcast interview with Rebecca Northan