Arts Club Theatre Company
Blind Date created & produced by Rebecca Northan

Dates and Venue(s)
November 22 – December 30, 2018 at Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre || ON TOUR January 2 – February 3, 2019 at various theatres throughout the Lower Mainland

Director Rebecca Northan Associate Producer Marcie Januska Stage Manager & Sound Improviser Meredith Johnson

Reviewer John Jane

Blind dates are renowned for going sideways. The experience can turn out to be anything from mind-numbingly boring to totally bizarre. Combine this risk with improvisational comedy coupled with a co-star with no acting experience and the probability for calamity is exponentially greater.

This is exactly what Saskatchewan performance artist Tess Degenstein does with her axiomatically titled show, Blind Date in the artful guise of Mimi, a disarmingly coquettish clown. The show starts with Mimi sitting alone at a table for two in a bistro. After waiting for some time, she accepts that her date has stood her up (to believe that an attractive, funny clown like Mimi would be stood up by anyone is quite a stretch, but we have to go along with the premise).

For the show to continue, Mimi picks out a new date from the watching audience (in truth, selected before the show even starts). What then ensues depends partly on the co-operation and goodwill of the willing audience member and his real date. In this case, an easy-going young manager named Ben who had been sitting with his understanding wife.

The show’s success relies heavily, not on the co-star’s alacrity, but the willingness of the audience to go wherever Ms Degenstein's agility as an improve artist decides to take it. There is a taped-off area at stage-right where Mimi can take her co-star when he reaches a point where he is unsure of the show’s direction. This “real world zone” affords the principal performer the opportunity to break the "fourth wall" by consulting with the audience directly.

Over the next hour-and-a-half, the two meet in the rather obviously named Le Café for a blind date with all its early awkwardness and wrong footedness. Then, they hop in Mimi’s car and wind up at the apartment she’s borrowing from her uncle. The show is put on pause as it allows for the new improve performer to take an impromptu washroom break. In his absence, Mimi concurs with the audience to fast forward five years after their date. It’s at this point that the show reverts to partial slapstick. Though, to his credit, Ben has become more comfortable in his role and readily adapts to the situation.

Tess Degenstein maintains her playful French accent throughout and much like her entire act, the lighting and sound elements are also ad-libbed by off stage improviser Meredith Johnson.

I never stopped noticing Mimi’s clown nose - a constant reminder that this is a piece of theatre, with the sole purpose of entertaining. The nose is an essential part of her performance as reality merges with stagecraft; a skill that Degenstein is especially adept at.

You have until December 30 to arrange a rendezvous with Mimi at the BMO Theatre Centre, before the show goes on tour throughout the Lower Mainland. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be the worst blind date you’ve ever been on.

© 2018 John Jane