If one were to look at the promotional material for 6th Street Playhouse’s “Date Night” (running now through February 16th in the Studio Theatre), one might expect an evening of light, frothy romantic comedy just in time for Valentine’s Day. One would be wrong. “Date Night” consists of three plays written by Robert Caisley that take a decidedly different (and somewhat twisted) look at love.
The evening begins with “The Apology”, directed by Lennie Dean and featuring Craig Miller as “This Guy”. What starts out as a simple “I’m sorry” to an unseen woman for a date gone badly soon mushrooms into an extended monologue on what may be the single worst date known to man. Miller gives a tour-de-force performance as his never-ending stream of “I’m sorrys” take you deeper into the darkly comedic disaster that was their date. With shifts in tone that keep you guessing as to where it’s going (one minute Miller’s character seems like a contrite school boy, the next minute he’s a potential killer), “The Apology” packs a lot of energy and laughs into a scant 15 minute running time.
“Hungry 4 U”, directed by Edward McCloud, tells the tale of a couple (Rose Roberts & Braedyn Youngberg) who embark on their honeymoon and decide to take the concept of “love bites” to an extreme conclusion. To say much more might spoil the reveal, but Caisley’s script would have made a nice episode of the old “Night Gallery” TV series. This 40 minute play dragged in spots and one suspects Caisley could have told this tale in less time, but the performances of Roberts and Youngberg keep you engaged.
One might wonder what to expect after intermission based on what had been seen in the first half of “Date Night”. One might expect another short, seriocomic piece based on the length and tone of the first two presentations. One would be wrong.
“Kissing”, directed by Craig Miller, was a Brechtian piece of psychiatric opera that ran for an interminable 90 minutes. Seemingly unconnected monologues bookend a scene involving co-workers who may (or may not) have feelings for each other. The scene is repeated (and repeated, and repeated…) with slight variations as the seemingly unconnected monologues soon connect to produce a love “rectangle” (there are four people involved.) This is all done under the guidance of an off-stage, David Attenborough-ish narrator who seems to be reading from a “How-to” manual on kissing.
Sound interesting? Well, it was to start, and you can’t fault the performances of a game cast (John Browning, Jessica Short Headington, Randy St. Jean, and Marianne Shine) but I was looking for an end at about the 45 minute mark. There was another 45 minutes to go. The opening night audience grew restless, and I found myself observing them whenever the set pieces (a blanket and picnic basket) returned to the stage for the umpteenth retelling of the main scene. There was a palpable sense of “Oh no, not again” emanating from them as they shifted, fidgeted, and yawned their way through the rest of the show. The energy that filled the house at 8pm had completely evaporated by a quarter to eleven.
“Date Night” starts with a bang but, disappointingly, ends with a whimper – a long, loooong whimper. One might think “Date Night” would make a great date night. One would be wrong. Well, to be fair, let’s just say one would be half-right.
A 6th Street Playhouse Production
January 24th through February 16th
Evenings Thu, Fri, Sat @ 8:00pm Matinees Sat & Sun @ 2pm
6th Street Playhouse
52 W. 6th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Photos by Eric Chazankin