Spending an evening with Haley Walker is like hanging out with your BFF.
The central character in Theresa Rebeck's one-woman play "Bad Dates," Haley understands the pain of too-tight peep-toe heels as completely as she understands the pain of a broken heart.
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"Bad Dates"★ ★ ★
Location: Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles, (630) 584-6342 or foxvalleyrep.org
Showtimes: Runs in repertory with "Around the World in 80 Days" through Aug. 7. See website for times.
Running time: About 1 hour, 20 minutes; no intermission
Tickets: $29-$39, dinner-show packages available from $49
Parking: Free lot
Rating: For adults, contains strong subject matter and sexual content
Her frustrations earn our sympathy. Her romantic misadventures make us chuckle. We understand her uncertainties, especially when it comes to selecting an outfit for a first date. Not all of us share her obsession with stylish footwear or her flair for snappy retorts. But some of us will certainly recognize something of ourselves during an 85-minute monologue in which she recounts the professional, personal and romantic challenges she faces as a late thirty-something, single mom diving back into the dating pool.
Rebeck's cozy, cleverly written comedy doesn't tell audiences anything they don't already know and haven't seen elsewhere. But this nicely offhand, off-Broadway favorite from 2003 has charm, which is evident in Fox Valley Repertory's highly enjoyable revival, breezily directed by Kimberly Senior and running in repertory with "Around the World in 80 Days" as part of the St. Charles' theater's inaugural Summer Theater Fest.
Much of the credit for making "Bad Dates" good rests with a spunky, spontaneous performance by Lauren Pizzi who plays the Texas-born Haley.
After divorcing her weed-dealing husband, Haley moves with her daughter to New York City where she gets a job as a waitress in a restaurant run by Romanian mobsters who are using it as a front for money laundering. After the owner goes to prison, Haley takes over and discovers she has a knack for running the place, which she transforms into a hip, legitimate eatery praised by critics and frequented by celebrities.
We meet Haley in her bedroom as she prepares for and returns from a series of unfortunate dates with unsuitable men, the details of which she shares with the audience, who become her confidants.
As you've probably guessed, "Bad Dates" clearly falls under the "chic theater" category. The situations that Haley finds herself in will resonate with women, especially women of a certain age. But the show doesn't bash men, who have likely experienced a bad date or two themselves. Rather, it celebrates the resilience of a woman willing to shuck the flotation devices and dive in to romance even after she comes up sputtering.
The endlessly likable Pizzi (who also appears in "Around the World in 80 Days") endears herself the moment she utters her first line, asking the audience if we like her shoes. We've met this character before: the sassy, independent, quick-thinking woman who perseveres despite setbacks and who's willing to trade comfort for appearance -- at least for a little while. But Pizzi, with her natural, seemingly effortless approach, puts a fresh spin on Haley -- a woman whom we can root for, laugh with and, for 85 minutes, call our BFF.