A trio of vignettes about the vagaries of romance, specifically, getting your foot in the door via that initial encounter, "First Dates," staged at the Fringe Mainstage Theatre, reminds us that it doesn't matter how a couple meets, it's that they meet in the first place. Of course, going into the Big Event, you don't have the presence of mind to think that far ahead. Only afterwards do you think, "God, I can't believe how skittish I was," or else, if the coupling has held, then relive those fluttery first moments.
Each story is brief (the entire production clocks in under an hour). Each occurs in that gap between knowing nothing and then something about the other person. All three are held together by expectations, all of which are quickly, humorously dashed. Though you can plan the set up online, can meet through a third party, or stumble into it drunk and amnesic, you can't plan what's going to happen next. The first two set ups involve the expected fudging of or else nondisclosure on the profile (age, experience, body type, and handicap); the accidental one hovers over the who, how, what, and where of the unexpected fling. It's the intersection of built up emotions and the immediate reality of those first moments together that this production plumbs to such good comic effect. The revelations are not profound, nor are they meant to be. The production simply makes us look at the terror of a first date, get over the initial shock, and then, so to speak, get down to business.
In "Sexy Sixty," written and directed by Jennifer Schoch, Allison Mattox prepares for the arrival of Beth Robbins. Allison's understandably nervous. She tidies and re-tidies her flat; she wonders how to position herself on the sofa. She's shocked to see that Beth is considerably older. Beth in turn is shocked because first, she just wanted a hookup, not a babysitting gig; second, because she's Jennifer's first lesbian date. Once they get past the age difference and experience issue, the relationship really begins.
In "The Blind Date," written and directed by Robbins, Algerita Wynn hosts Shon Fuller. She may be nervous, but she finds him handsome. He may be shy but he's... blind, though we know that before Algerita does. After she reconciles herself to his blindness, she realizes it does have an advantage: he can't see that she's a tad overweight. Once they get past the matter of his blindness, the relationship really begins.
In "The Afternoon After," written and directed by Mattox, Kiley Eberhardt wakes up to discover that she's spent the night with Alec Cygano, a musician she saw perform the prior night. She's aghast and chagrined because she can only imagine what happened. Understandably she wants to flee. She doesn't. Why doesn't she want to flee? Because, as with the prior two pieces, the potential for a relationship only begins once the initial shock of meeting someone, under whatever circumstances, wears off. Do all three herald the kindling of a romance? Who knows? The point of "First Dates" is that one doesn't know unless one tries.
"First Dates" is as funny and sweet and it is nerve-wracking and terrifying. Underlying all three pieces is that lottery platitude, "You can't win if you don't play." It confirms that relationships have to begin somewhere. Do we know how they will turn out? Absolutely not. Too bad we can't just hopscotch over those bothersome first moments and get to know the person. But then, where would all the stories come from?
The production's run, alas, has ended. For more information, please visit http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/1424.