It’s no secret that the early days of dating are about as easy to navigate as a combat zone. A million and one books have been written on the differences between men and women and their communication and dating styles. Elsinore County’s Antony Raymond’s yeah, i met this girl… explores the life of three men in various stages of their journeys in dating.
Expertly cast are Christopher Heard as Joe, the blonde, California pretty boy, Eric Doviak as Ben who is smooth-talking and looks like he just walked out of an episode of "Mad Men," and Dan McVey who plays Guy with enough ennui to make any girl fall for him. The play is set in a bar, which Guy has inherited from his father where the guys congregate to hash out their various experiences and theories about women and dating. The play focuses on their inner life, and at first, they seem caddish and shallow; reinforcing stereotypes about what they want in a woman: eye candy. Guy calls out to the others: "That's my type!" and Ben replies: "What? Hot!" But as the play unfolds we see they also want love and can be as insecure and uncertain about it as women are.
Raymond does an excellent job of using the small stage. With the help of lighting designer, Daryl Embry, tableaus are created and broken, and the stage comes to resemble various settings including a nightclub and restaurant. The actors work well together. At first, the dialogue seems to come too fast; patter that falls off a nervous tongue, but as momentum picks up, and scenes change in seconds, the aerobic patter is needed to maintain the rhythm of the action.
There are many enjoyable things about this play, but the writing is what makes it exceptional. Raymond has his finger on the pulse of the inner lives of men and women and compacts their feelings about dating and romance in today’s era of new age thinking and technology into small and poignant vignettes. He also admits how men can come up short in communication. At one point, Ben tells his friends he broke up with someone by leaving her a voice message. They chide him, so he admits he sent a text as well. When they ask what he said in the text, he confesses that he texted to say he left a voice message. They cringe, and so do we, but also laugh.
Well captured is the arbitrary and contrived nature of dating. At one point, a couple sits at a table, getting to know one another by asking each other questions. The intensity of the questions build quickly, and take on the tone of an interview created by someone's overbearing mother. They begin with the mundane: “What is your favorite color?,” but soon climax to the most loaded question of all: “Do you want to meet my parents?” Within in a few minutes, they are arguing about the future, and the relationship is over.
Also special to this play is how tightly choreographed the scenes are. Stacey Roca, Amanda Kristin Nichols and Zina Wilde represent a gamut of female archetypes. Reminiscent of a Sam Shepard play, but much more humorous, is a scene in which the three women cycle through the arms of the three men. It captures how fickle the heart can be depending on what it wants. Sometimes you just want sex and other times you want love and intimacy. The scene suggests that ultimately it’s about the chemistry. If you’re interested in finding out what lays beyond that, you will need some time.
Love does happen—to Joe, the one who is seemingly the most flirtatious and disinterested in a committed relationship. He gets engaged but gets his heart broken. The reason is not what you think. Guy continues to swear off musicians only to be infatuated by each one that comes into his bar to play open mic. Ben is the most cynical of the three friends and chastises the others when he declares: “You keep looking for some perfect girl to come along and save you, or some broken bird that you can save, but that’s not going to happen (…) There’s no perfect person out there for anyone except the person in the mirror.” It’s hard to tell if he’s the most enlightened or the most narcissistic. We are told to love ourselves first before we can have a meaningful relationship, and that is what Ben is suggesting.
However, it is Guy’s belief that there's a woman out there for every man; a binary, that aligns us more as social creatures. He even believes in a more cosmic connection and meditates on this: “You got to think about the ying and the yang. Without good there can’t be a bad. Could it be possible there is someone out there that was created with us and for us?” Let’s hope so! It definitely seems better to grow “old and wrinkly” with someone, as one of the actress' declares, then to remain moored on an island of cynicism and defeat. After all, no man is an island.
Elsinore County’s production of yeah, i met this girl by Antony Raymond is running through Feb. 14 at Under St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between First Ave. & Avenue A) in Manhattan. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by visiting www.elsinorecounty.com.