Here's a theatrical recipe for hilarity... or disaster... or anything in between: invite a random member from the audience to be your co-star.
That's the pretty simple, yet dangerous, premise behind Blind Date (a touring show currently running at the MTC Warehouse) - and on opening night, it made for a frothy, fun, crowd-pleasing night.
Rebecca Northan in "Blind Date" (Greg Tjepkema)
Rebecca Northan (the creator/performer behind Blind Date)
plays Mimi, a charmingly flirty French clown looking for love via a blind date... with an audience member Northan pulls into the role of her suitor (she and her assistants scout out the crowd in the lobby pre-show, but that's about as much "rehearsal" as the lucky audience member gets).
What ensues probably depends a lot on the audience member, but also on Northan's skills as an improviser and clown, which are impressive.
And granted, she couldn't have gotten much luckier on opening night - her audience volunteer, Warren, was a champion team player, game to run with most anything Northan threw his way (and he got a lot of pretty good lines in himself).
A couple of "time outs" to check in with his wife, sitting in the audience, were actually among the performance's highlights.
There are clearly a few set pieces of story built into the show, but the bulk of it - including the dialogue, and how Mimi and her date get from point to point - is obviously done on the spot. Northan is a quick-witted and playful improviser, and knows how to work a crowd. And just as importantly, given the premise of this show, she's very gentle and generous with her "date."
That said, she could also take more charge of moving the show forward - opening night ran a bit closer to two hours than 90 minutes, and would've benefited from being tighter.
Northan could propel the action forward quicker, particularly in the show's opening in a restaurant - the first scene did indeed feel much like a blind date, with a bit too much "getting to know you" chat, and a few too many awkward lulls between laughs. But once the action moved out of that setting, things began to heat up comedically, building to an ending that was surprising, funny, and even sweet.
Besides her audience volunteers, Northan gets some welcome help from a couple of assistants who periodically appear onstage (Julie Orton, who plays Mimi for select matinee performances, and Jamie Northan on opening night), and her stage manager Sean Bowie, who provided some sharp sound effects.
Having seen Northan and company at work, I'll say it's a lot more fun to watch this Blind Date
than to go on one.
Joff Schmidt, CBC Theatre Reviewer (CBC)