Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: Tinder and Other Theatrical Woes

Imagine your worst dates ever. I can guarantee Swipe Right was worse. Written and directed by Allison Young, Swipe Right was a structural nightmare about twenty something's dating. The story begins with a narrator telling Joey's story. Is he a projection in her dream or an actor simply reading stage directions? It's hard to say as the clarity changed often, especially when the story departed from Joey and onto the other characters. Once we establish Joey, we meet John, her coworker, Brad, the resident guy who gets called every variation of "douche", and a series of dates for said "douche." The script was filled with pop culture references and an abundance of jokes that not only didn't land, they had to be explained. With a title that reflects the dating app Tinder, Young rarely talked about it and focused on the general dating woes. By the end of the hour-long show, we watched two pairs get together and the bad guy get ahead in life. The problem with Swipe Right was it didn’t know what it was nor did it have a fresh eye to guide it. With Young in the driver’s seat, there was no litmus test for the material. What may have been funny to Young did not resonate with the general audience. The other major woe was the use of the narrator. With an actor unsure of his purpose, the narrator began as a conscious type character that evolved into someone literally reading a script. Young began her intent with the narrator helping to shape and adjust Joey’s story. But in reality, the narrator did not do that with a script in hand. It was clearly already written out for Joey. The narrator was Young’s device that would allow the overdone topic seem fresh. Unfortunately the execution was off.
With the device being messy, actor Saer Karim didn’t quite know how to grasp the role either. As the narrator, he meandered on stage lost and unsure what to do. There were no clear choices made, offering a monotonous tone that could allow you to drift off to dreamland. As Joey, Aly Pentangelo had spunk. But once Young drifted away from her narrative, Pentangelo was relegated to waitress and busgirl. The story of John and Hannah was the only plot line that had life. Andre Pizarro and Sara Kohler had some chemistry that lead to some nice moments but Pizarro was quite weak until Kohler came and lifted him up.
Young as a director didn’t quite keep an eye on the little details. With pacing being quite slow and the focus shifting often, Young seemed to allow her company do what they wanted to. And when it came to the little details, they stuck out like a sore thumb. Like when Hannah asks if the bar has coconut water when it is clearly smack in her face. Or how rather than printing slips of paper to use a menus, the menus were postcards from the production. Or how, despite a late reference how Christine Penski’s trio of girls looked the same, they all wore the same identical outfit with a very iconic coat. Additionally, the music that Young used during preshow had little barring on the show at large. It felt like an iTunes playlist on shuffle.
Swipte Right seemed to be doomed when “High School Musical” played during the preshow mix. This show proves that directing your own show is not a very smart move. Even though the material wasn’t strong, a fresh eye could have salvaged something.