Theater Caps are bite-sized punch-packing capsule reviews by resident theater critic Elaine Liner. Use them as a reminder -- or a teaser, if you procrastinate -- of her full-length reviews in The Mixmaster's weekly sister.
Oh, girl, we gotta talk. Actually, we gotta be quiet while Haley Walker talks to the audience for about two hours in the Theresa Rebeck comedy Bad Dates, now playing at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. Haley's a divorced mom in her early 40s, living in Manhattan and running a chi-chi restaurant that critics like. In this one-character play, Haley makes us her confidantes as she preps in her messy bedroom (fabu set by Rodney Dobbs) for a series of first dates, last dates and bad dates with various men.
It's a gimmicky concept, but performed by Dallas actress Shannon J. McGrann with the sort of girl-to-girl, conspiratorial sass that we like in Kathy Griffin's act, it's huge fun. McGrann, wiggling in and out of outfits and dozens of pairs of designer shoes, looks like a curvier version of Patricia Heaton (the wife on Everybody Loves Raymond) and wacks it up like Tracey Ullman. She's hilarious, playing off audience reactions like a deft stand-up. (Director Robin Armstrong has added some effective physical shtick that McGrann carries off with deliciously awkward moves.)
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A shaggy tale of mobsters, stolen money and a guy who talks to bugs is woven through the chatty monologue. By the end, we're happy to see Haley hook up with someone promising.
Promise you, Bad Dates is the fastest, funniest show on any local stage right now.
Bad Dates continues through November 13 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. Call 214-828-0094.