Not Bad . . .

I usually wind up on the sofa every night, watching those badly dubbed episodes of Sex and the City that are breeding like rabbits all over late-night cable stations. Probably you've seen them, squeezed between carpet-cleaning commercials and sanitized to the point of absurdity, all the "twats" and "fuckers" re-looped into "butts" and "suckers." Even as brilliantly written as this show sometimes is, most of my biggest laughs come from these botched attempts at making a show about sex less naughty.

Which is sort of how I felt about Arizona Theatre Company's production of Bad Dates: entertained in spite of myself. I found myself laughing at some of playwright Theresa Rebeck's bigger jokes, and then rolling my eyes at myself, because most of this material is less than fresh.

But since people seem less interested in commentary on the relevance of a particular play or musical than they are in being told whether they should spend their money on tickets to it, I'll say this: Go see Bad Dates, because it's amusing and short and utterly painless. It's well-acted by Erika Rolfsrud, who plays that theatrical comedy staple, the Texas waitress with a heart of gold, with more than a little style. And director Aaron Posner displays a better-than-average understanding of what makes a one-woman show click along seamlessly for 90 smooth and sometimes amusing minutes.

Nearly every one of those minutes is taken up by waitress Haley's stories about -- you guessed it -- her many bad dates with loser guys. Rolfsrud makes this single mom as charming as possible considering she's here to tell a story with a beard a mile long -- the one that goes "Men are all assholes but I sure wish I could marry me one!" As she dresses for her next date, Haley tells us about the last one and the ways in which it sucked. Although her life story -- divorcée waitress with teenaged daughter becomes successful restaurateur and decides she wants to date again -- takes a sharp left late in its telling, Bad Dates is still little more than a pleasant diversion into a place most of us have already visited.

Big, airy Center Stage at the Herberger Theater Center probably isn't the best place to present an intimate conversation with a woman while she's dressing, and Rebeck too often falls back on one-sided telephone conversations and shouted exchanges with Haley's never-seen daughter to move the story along. But as long as one doesn't expect too awfully much from Rebeck's cheeky one-act, seeing it is at least worth getting up off the sofa and switching off those comedy reruns in order to see, well, a comedy rerun, this one live on stage.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela