In her tight red dress and fishnet stockings, Mimi waits. And waits. And waits some more. It’s been two hours too long, and the seat next to this sexy-but-single Parisian woman is still empty. Determined to save the date and not let her romantic table for two go to waste, Mimi takes matters into her own hands, marching off stage and into the audience to find a replacement.
And so begins the unorthodox Blind Date, an interactive improv show in which Rebecca Northan (Mimi) co-stars with a different man each night. Her adorable, and often nervously sweating, blind dates are not professional actors, but men plucked unknowingly from the audience and thrown on stage to date Mimi in front of all 250 people in the Ordway’s McKnight Theater. Yikes! Blind Date may sound like a risk, but it’s one worth taking. Following sold-out runs in New York and Toronto, producer Kevin McCollum is sure to have a hit here, too, with this awkward, endearing, and always hilarious reminder of love gone right.
Bouncing back on stage, Mimi escorts her new date (the night I went it was Sean, a father of two soon-to-be teenage girls and a recent—like three-weeks-ago recent—divorcee) to the table. The date starts as many do: slowly. The first few awkward exchanges are painful. You hold your breath and wonder: will the date (not to mention the play) pan out? But that’s when Northan reminds you she’s good—really good—at acting on a whim. Taking Sean’s nervous, often short responses, Northan artfully weaves the conversation into a narrative, building a love story you can’t help but believe is authentic.
Let me take a moment to mention the “time-out box,” a taped-off square on the side of the stage with a stool. At any time during the date, if things get too crazy or awkward, Sean or Mimi simply call “break.” They leave the play and enter the “world of the time out.” There, Mimi coaches her man and we listen in on what he’s really thinking. Blind dates everywhere could benefit from a box like this—a space to just relax for a minute and remind yourself (or your date) you don’t have to put on a show. After a couple minutes in the time-out box, Sean’s nervousness slips away and ease finally sets in.
Midway through the show, the once-awkward date begins to feel like a real relationship. Sean and Mimi have the audience wrapped around their finger, enthusiastically applauding for the couple to fast-forward five years to see if anything came from their first kiss (yes, Mimi got Sean to kiss her!). They oblige, and Northan’s impeccable memory shines as she weaves details from the beginning of the show into her and Sean’s “story.”
Adding to Blind Date’s fun are two quirky, hilarious supporting actors, Jamie Northan and Bruce Horak. The pair pops up here and there as waiters, crazy neighbors, date coaches, set movers, and, most importantly, to towel off Sean’s sweaty forehead during time outs.
Plain and simple, everyone loves a good love story—especially one that works out. With their awkward pauses, profuse sweating, and abnormal amount of giggling, Mimi and Sean’s romance felt real. It wasn’t Hollywood’s typical romantic comedy, but that’s what made it so great. It was just two people, falling in love. Too bad for Sean, Mimi will be falling in love every night from now until April 1.
Through April 1
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, 651-224-4222