Everybody's perfect

There's a lot more about the minefield of adult dating that's recognizable in Miss-Matched, a world-premiere production of Dallas playwright Robin Armstrong's script that closes the "All Dallas Playwrights" season of Pegasus Theatre. The empathy factor didn't always make this scattershot show easier to take -- Armstrong's script needs to be workshopped a couple more times, especially to tighten the first act and the transitions between scenes, and there is once again something in the air at Pegasus (lead paint fumes? Feng shui misalignment?) that causes clearly talented performers to overemphasize characters and scenes. But after an occasionally awkward first half, Miss-Matched picked up its own charming momentum and earned big laughs from the Saturday-night audience.

The premise on which the play operates is as familiar to you as the last time a friend bitched to you about the dismal state of her love life. Three female roommates -- shy Leslie (Cait McKellen), assertive Marylynn (Leigh Anne Patterson), and ditzy Sharla (Leslie Patrick) -- take out a personal ad in which they've constructed the perfect woman based on a combination of all their best features. Their ad is answered by the perfect man, a Frankenstein-like composite built from the most flattering parts of three male roommates -- sneaky Eric (Vince Phillip), blustery Steve (A. Raymond Banda), and sensitive Robert (Rick Espaillat). Needless to say, each team falls for the other's straw date, and wacky romantic misadventures ensue when each individual attempts to slip away for a secret meeting with perfection.

I'm not sure why I enjoyed the very flawed Miss-Matched, but it probably has to do with the fact that playwright Robin Armstrong and director Robyn Gulledge chucked those Martian-Venusia field guides and emphasized that one terror bridges the gender divide -- that of being a disappointment to someone you've just met who's smart and attractive and nice. They seem to flirt with gender stereotypes in a pointless scene where the men, fishing, reel in potential dating material and then throw it back, but that falls by the wayside pretty quickly in deference to some heartfelt patter about the impulse to be someone you're not on a first date.

When the actors aren't overenunciating or hanging on to a reaction shot too long, they relax and give this fluffy material weight by making it seem, if not revelatory, at least relevant. Near the end, when Leslie recounts her flaws with some exasperation and then concludes she is "riddled with them, like personality bullet holes," we understand that the mind behind Miss-Matched, if not always disciplined, is jacked into a very specific and compelling audience experience.

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Jimmy Fowler

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