Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010

Playdaters: The Unexpected

One Weekend-Only Neil Haven Show Is More Than Expected

By Russ Bickerstaff
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It’s exceedingly difficult to be surprised by local theatre. Neil Haven’s one-weekend show The Playdaters managed to amount to a little more than expected.

The initial premise is kind of interesting . . . Haven and Jeremiah Munsey star as a couple of guys playing a game with online dating. They challenge each other to do strange things with strangers on first dates with a variety of women played by talented comic actress Karen Estrada. When Spencer stars dating a beautiful woman (Liz Shipe) “for real,” things get interesting.

It’s kind of surprising that, though the potential for real commercial comedy is very real here, Haven tends to avoid all of the obvious comedy. And this is a bit of a disappointment, but total disaster for the comedy is successfully averted in a existential drama that explores the nature of truth, artifice, love and identity. In this respect, Haven’s Playdaters shadows some of the themes in his recently staged short involving anthropomorphized ducks in Las Vegas.  

While it may not be brilliant comedy it seems to be reaching for, the themes covered here are an interesting initial study for something far more accomplished. The technology of human interaction is evolving so quickly that society has quite gained enough distance from it to have significant insight into what we are becoming as a culture. Work like The Playdaters is a step towards that—and it may ultimately end-up developing a new kind of theatre—nothing drastically different from traditional theatre, but something new nonetheless. As human interaction evolves, so too will live theatre . . .

Having closed in Milwaukee, The Playdaters moves to the Chicago Fringe Festival September 1st – 5th. A more concise review of the show appears in this week’s Shepherd-Express.  

 

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