Updated: Jan 2, 2020
There are a lot of shows worth seeing. If you can't see them, they're at least worth reading about. But let's face it, we're all short on time and attention. We just want a glimpse of the good stuff. Enter "Thank You, Five!", the new series featuring my top five memorable moments from shows. Not every random standout bit can make it into a full-length review, after all. To kick off the series: a deceptively simple play about online dating that unexpectedly brought me close to tears.
The Gist: #DateMe: An OkCupid Experiment is based on a real-life woman who created fake OkCupid profiles of "undateable" people to see what kind of responses she got.
1. "I'm an awful person...but I'll be your awful person!" The script largely incorporates quotes from real OkCupid conversations and profiles she interacted with. These include cringeworthy "pickup lines" set appropriately to a boy-band groove, DMs that range from the sweet to the sociopathic (seriously, I feared for my life for a few minutes when those were being read), and such gems as the above. I dunno, I'd give that person a shot.
2. There's a word for us grammar sticklers that's just as pretentious as we are: "pilkunnussija." It's a little less pretentious when you translate it out of Finnish, as it literally means "comma-f***er." The mention of this word is but one of the educational moments in #DateMe. For example, I learned that (at least among my night's audience) I am in the majority that believes those who don't care about the difference between "you're" and "your" should leave the planet. I learned that putting the word "guacamole" in your online dating profile will elicit a lot of responses - Tinder hopefuls, take notes. I also learned, based on how I answered some personality questions, my dating species. I am a "Most Uninteresting Interesting (Wo)Man in the World," which basically means I'll make what I think are edgy, original pop culture references that make me witty and interesting...but a million other people are dropping the exact same lines. (Call me out like that.)
3. The piano player looked like he was having the time of his life. I would, too, if I got the chance to underscore a scene set in Port Authority with whatever musical mood I desired. He chose horror music. Excellent choice. Now, he did this because the scene relayed a bad date that occurred at Beer Authority, the Port's adjacent brewery. But speaking as someone who travels through there often, that was an objectively excellent choice. (3.5: Port Authority has a brewery. How have I not noticed that all this time?)
4. It has more complex emotional depth than its premise lets on. I went into the theater expecting to have a fun, laugh-filled time. And I did: #DateMe is gut-bustingly funny, if simply because it's so incredulous that there are real people walking this earth who unironically sent some of these messages. Once the second act begins, though, the play's serious through line creeps up on you. Robyn (the main character based on the real-life coordinator of the experiment) is afraid of loving and losing, and she uses the experiment as a way to avoid confronting her own fears of the big wide dating world. It's a bit of a treacly premise, evocative of (you guessed it) a Hallmark movie. But the knowledge that it's grounded in a real person makes it deeply poignant. I won't spoil the plot twist, but all I have to say is that I did not expect to cry at a play about OkCupid. Amidst its satirical and flippant nature, #DateMe taps into an unexpectedly broad range of emotions and sensations: fear (of rejection, of loss), disgust, loneliness, charm, desperation, lust, curiosity, and of course, love.
5. Charlie and Mark. I saved the best for last. If you see #DateMe, you won't see Charlie and Mark. They were two half-willing audience members called up to participate in the show, talk a little about themselves, and watch their hypothetical future as a couple play out before their eyes. As it happened, they're both from Philadelphia, eliciting immediate gasps of excitement from the rest of us. They were also asked to list six things they couldn't live without, and their difficulty coming up with some on the spot prompted some memorable responses:
Mark: "I can't live without [2 things], wine...I can't think of anything."
Actor: "Do you have any hobbies?"
Mark: "Wine is my hobby!" (Cue uproarious laughter.)
Actor: "What are six things you can't live without?"
Charlie: "Not being up here, family, cheese, [2 things], and...uh, what's your name? Chris? Okay, Chris, you. Let's say I can't live without you."
All turned out well, though - the men watched the actors predict their futures, took some fun photos, and presumably went on their merry ways.
So good luck out there, Charlie and Mark. In the words of one rare, sincere OkCupid user: "I wish you a wonderful life and love."