It happened on a blind date...
On a recent Saturday afternoon at around 2 pm, a French woman sits alone at a table set for two, dressed in a stunning red dress (accessorized with a red clown nose, no less!) nervously waiting for her blind date to arrive. She has been waiting for more than two hours. Discouraged but not defeated, she decides to salvage the evening by looking for a new companion with whom to share the evening.
Rebecca Northan as Mimi in Spontaneous Theatre's Blind Date. Photo credit: Claus Andersen.
"Brad? Where's Brad?" She calls out into the abyss. Suddenly, a spotlight shines down upon Mimi's new companion for the evening, the man charged with the task of restoring Mimi's faith in dating, all the while entertaining the audience.
Audience, you say? Oh, dear. I'm sorry. Did I forget to mention this whole scene unfolded on the Spriet Stage at London's Grand Theatre in their latest production, BLIND DATE? My apologies. But stay with me, will you?
Jake Dunbar as the Date and Rebecca Northan as Mimi. Photo credit: Claus Andersen.
Here's the premise: This innovative show technically starts in the lobby, where cast members mingle with the guests to try to find Mimi's ideal blind date. Mimi then calls the man (who has previously consented) up on stage when her original date doesn't show up. The only thing that is scripted about the whole show is the opening set-up. From there, only time will tell where the story will go. In this case, the date was played by a man named Brad, who worked as an educator with deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Over the course of the date, Brad and Mimi enjoyed some time under the stars at Victoria Park (after dining and dashing out on the bill at the aforementioned restaurant!) had a run-in with the London Police, and became first-time parents. Yes, you read that right! Over the course of 90 minutes, Mimi and Brad managed to go from absolute strangers to married parents of one.
One of the funniest moments was when Brad's real-life wife came up from the audience to serve as Mimi's stand in for a, shall we say, intimate moment that takes place on a park bench.
Rebecca Northan as Mimi, with Scenographers Tess Degenstein and Kristian Reimer. Photo credit: Claus Andersen.
What makes this premise work is the magical combination of Mimi herself (played on this occasion by Tess Degenstein) who is absolutely infectiously funny and charming, and the total willingness of the audience participant to live in the moment and commit to making the story move forward in all kinds of unpredictable ways. That, and the fact that every show will be completely different, depending on the person chosen to play Mimi's date and where the conversation goes. Genius! Degenstein never misses a beat, expertly playing off of the audience participant's answers and rolling with the punches in the best way.
We left the show after having spent 90 minutes laughing, being pulled along for the ride, and (If I'm being really honest) grateful that it was not my extremely introverted self who was called to go up on stage -- eek!! BLIND DATE was, from start to finish, hilarious, spontaneous, charming, daring, inventive, and innovative in equal measure. A thoroughly satisfying and memorable way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I walked away from the experience wishing I could go back for the evening show just to see where things would go with another date across the table from Mimi.
BLIND DATE is a Spontaneous Theatre production. It started in 2007 when it was commissioned by the Harbourfront Centre World Stage Festival as a short sketch. In 2010, it premiered Off-Broadway in its full version and since that time, it has sold out venues across the United States, in (the other) London's West End, and across Canada.
Side note: To celebrate BLIND DATE, the Title Sponsor (McCormick) commissioned a local, London-based microbrewery Forked River to create a custom beer. Brewed with Billy Bee Honey and Club House spices, "Honey Love" is a limited brew featuring the show's post art. The brew is available at the Grand itself and at The Church Key Bistro-Pub.
BLIND DATE runs until March 3. Tickets range from $29.95 to $84 and are available at www.grandtheatre.com, by phone at 519-672-8800, or at the Box Office, 471 Richmond Street.