by Ron Finnigan
Edited by Brie McFarlane
On December 6th, I was part of the “voyeurs” watching performer Tess Degenstein, in the role of Mimi, go on a blind date with a man named Paul selected seemingly at random from the audience. This was not rehearsed. Paul had no idea he would be chosen when he and his wife, Penny, decided to have a night out at the theatre.
We all have blind date horror stories. Spontaneous Theatre’s Blind Date (playing at the GCTC until December 17th) is a play that touches home, and the entire audience is captivated by the appearance of random choice and the anticipation that things might go terribly wrong with unexpected revelations. We are entranced with morbid curiosity to see if this Blind Date will be better or worse than our own experience. At times it feels uncomfortable to watch, but we also can’t look away.
Paul was a good sport and just played himself. He turned out to be a polite, attentive and funny date and was in pretty good shape for a retired 55-year old. He had to do very little improvisation, although he did manage to demonstrate he was quick on his feet and playful.
Degenstein as Mimi was amazing leading her date where she wants the story to go and by the end of the 90-minute play, has developed a coherent arc of a relationship started by a blind date and developing into something much more permanent. The script was every bit as entertaining and captivating as any other play I have seen this year and the humour that developed from the revelations that Paul and Mimi made in the unrehearsed segments had me and the audiences rolling in heartfelt laughter.
Because a different audience member, with a different career and different likes and dislikes, is chosen for every performance, a show-stopping revelation, like Paul’s (that he worked on the government Phoenix pay system before retiring) won’t surface every time. That’s the great premise of this play. No two performances are ever alike.
On December 9th and December 16th, the format will be changed to Queer Blind Date (as developed by evalyn perry at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto, in collaboration with Julie Orton and David Benjamin Tomlinson). On December 9th, Mimi, played by Tess Degenstein, will choose a female member of the audience to be her blind date. On December 16th, Tomlinson will become Mathieu and he will choose a male member of the audience to be his date.
It’s rare that seeing a play can be recommended more than once, but, in this case, seeing the play more than once is like seeing a new, and very entertaining play every time. Like making a choice from a box of chocolates, each one carries its own delightful surprise inside.
Ron Finnigan retired in 2015 and decided to go back to university to pursue and Arts/English BA. He is currently enrolled as a third-year undergraduate at Carleton University with a focus on theatre drama this year. His goal is to graduate in 2020 and then perhaps, like the Rubik’s Cube, start all over again.