PROVO — I’ve been reviewing for UTBA for over a year now. In that time, I’ve seen some good shows. I’ve seen some great shows. I’ve seen a few perfect shows. Tonight’s performance was one of those perfect ones. Or nearly as perfect as it can get. Let me describe the space first. The Covey Center for the Arts used to be Provo Library, which incidentally is where I met my husband, so was it just so cute that my husband and I went to a show called Blind Date in the building where we met? And here we are approaching Valentine’s Day. So the cute factor was part of tonight’s delight, I admit it.
The Covey Center is a beautiful structure, filled with artwork, and a huge auditorium—their mainstage. Upstairs and down the hall is the Brinton Black Box Theater. It seats 50 people on two risers and the floor. It is cozy and, as the name implies, black inside. There is something intimate about these types of theaters. You feel like you can reach over and say hi to the person sitting in front of you, just like I did tonight. We’re all one big family in that smallish room.
All of the one-acts are titled Blind Date, and are directed by Eric Samuelsen. The first one, written by J. Scott Bronson is the story of Larry, played by Jacob Swain, and Jill, played by Aubrey Reynolds. These two are sitting at a table in a restaurant. Jill has a bag on her head. She rather pleasantly asks Larry to take the bag off and Larry finds out that it isn’t the Jill he had expected, but rather. Jill’s roommate’s cousin—also named Jill. We are surprised at first that Jill (the one that had had the bag over her head) isn’t more upset at being kidnapped by Larry’s roommates, driven around for a half-hour to confuse her, then brought into a restaurant. He asks her if she wants to call the police. She coyly says, “No. Kidnapping is a federal offense. We’d need to call the FBI.” But Jill actually wants to talk to Larry, and we don’t find out until the end of the show why and I’m not going to spoil it for you. Swain and Reynolds are brilliant together—their timing is perfect, their gestures so natural. I sort of forgot I was watching a play. It felt like I was just looking in on a very unusual blind date.
The second Blind Date, written and directed by Eric Samuelsen, is doggone funny. Rex, played by David Smith, and Fifi, played by Brittni Smith, come into a restaurant dressed like FBI agents. Then they sit on the floor. Within a few sentences, we realize that Rex and Fifi are dogs, talking about their bosses. There is much mentioning of how dogs can see and smell and hear, and humans (the bosses) can’t. At first they don’t understand why the bosses are eating at this restaurant until both dogs realize they are engaging in the early stages of a mating ritual!
There is no way for me to convey how totally hilarious Samuelsen’s play is. David Smith has such style when he delivers his lines. He is a delight. Brittni Smith is a pleasure to watch as well. I came away from this play understanding a little bit more what my own dogs might be thinking as I move about my life. I am surprised and pleased that a story that has two dog narrators can have such funny lines and a happy ending besides. Bravo to all in this piece.
The third Blind Date is by Melissa Leilani Larson. It was somewhat confusing at the beginning. Pinky, again played by Brittni Smith, is a Filipino bride. Garrett, played so well by Patrick Kintz, is an uber-nerd from Texas who comes all the way to the Philippines to find a bride. The thing is, this play has a lot to say about why people need to be together, how hard it is to be alone, how we build walls to keep people out though we yearn to be with someone else. The tough, intimate, and sometimes touching commentary in this play make it the most serious and probably the most real play in this group of four one-acts. There are some laughs, but this isn’t a comedic play. This play made me hurt and feel genuine empathy for the characters. It forced us to look at relationships in a way the other three plays didn’t.
The fourth Blind Date, by Horton Foote, takes place in Texas during the 1930s, when Rudy Vallee crooned on the radio. Again we see Jacob Swain, this time as the insurance salesman Felix, who hopes to be a coroner. And again we see Aubrey Reynolds, this time as the awkward and rather abrasive Sarah Nancy. To see these two now, who had sweetly played the intelligent, modern couple in the first play, as a couple of people who are, in a word, weird, but still perfect for one another shows the talent of these two young people and the play’s director. Reynolds’s and Swain’s performances were so different from what we saw before that my husband didn’t even recognize these two until I pointed out to him that they’d been in the first play. David Smith appears again in this play as Sarah Nancy’s ten-gallon hat wearin’ uncle, Robert. David Smith’s expressive face easily elicits laughs, especially when Sarah and Felix decide they want to like each other.
Jessica Myer plays Delores, Sarah Nancy’s aunt and Robert’s wife. Myer is the kind of actress that I aspire to be. Her accent was so perfectly inflected and her expressions so subtle. Delores is a woman who simply wants her niece to be gracious, something Sarah Nancy couldn’t do if you paid her, mostly she doesn’t want to. Delores won’t accept this, and in her bravely perky manner just keeps pushing her niece to be a lady.
This final play had a big heap of Texas laughs, and Foote’s Blind Date alone would make it worth it to come to Provo. However, combined with the other three, this group of plays makes for a brilliant montage of the ups and downs of courtship. It is the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for you and your honey, or maybe your honey-to-be. Go see it, but make reservations. The theater was packed and performances are starting to sell out.