Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez
in a scene from First Date
(Photo credit: Chris Owyoung)
Whenever people get around to discussing the arcane subject of how writers for theater, for print, for film, for TV should tackle the very basis of their craft, everybody seems very happy to demonstrate their own rich vein of wisdom by delivering a variation on or the whole pithy adage: “Write What You Know.” It sounds so good, so solid, so easy. Whereupon, when the talented writers of First Date, book by Austin Winsberg, music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner plunged into the angst ridden creative laborings of chronicling the rituals of the mating dance they obviously adhered to the gospel of “Write what you know,” a little blue language here, a little blue language there, laying out the Bailout Scenario, the Awkward Pause, the Jewish versus Non-Jewish Miasma, the Slut Issues, The Bitch Issues, the Lack of Experience (at what?) versus the Too Much Experience (at what was that?) and carefully skirted L.O.V.E. or even M.A.R.R.I.A.G.E.
All of this was staged brilliantly, cleverly, inventively by director Bill Berry with his gonzo dynamite cast, Zachary Levi of television fame, Krysta Rodriguez of television note, Bryce Ryness, Kristoffer Cusick, Blake Hammond, Sara Chase and Kate LoPrest doing magnificent triple and quadruple threat work in David Gallo’s wittily commenting settings, with David C. Woolard’s wittily commenting costumes. And everything else top flight, Mike Baldassari’s lighting, Josh Rhodes’ dance direction, Kai Harada’s sound, Dominick Amendum’s music supervision and arrangements, everything. Most of all, an audience aching to laugh and laugh, and laugh they did. The dozens and dozens of producers couldn’t ask for more. So – what’s the problem?
The problem is that the creators wrote what they knew. They are all successful toilers in the television and film world and they know how to turn out a product. And that’s what they’ve done. And very well, too. Okey dokey. Flip to the next channel.
The Cast of First Date
(Photo credit: Chris Owyoung)
First Date? In spite of the sharp, cleverly designed opening number, we all knew where the show was going because – duh – it had to. But two hours worth? Well, no. Took enormous energy from all departments to eke out 90 minutes, no intermission. To describe the route along the way is to spill the beans of all the shtick involved because there is no story. Takes a lot of invention to get around that but they keep it all funny then pitch in the change-up – ya gotta have heart – then more funny, and finally, invention fizzling, getting to the Clinch. Do I also have to add that it takes place almost entirely in a bar? You recognize every inch of that bar.
You also recognize every inch of the rites, the mind revealing alter-egos, and alter-alter egos and whippy costume changes, the gropes, the innuendos. You laugh, you groan. You know the next bit is going to get a laugh, too, what else? Yes, that is the present status of the First Date. Cliché. Was it yours? Is that why you’re laughing? Is that who we are today? Mine wasn’t. Not in the 8th grade. She was so blonde! So what if she as a little cross-eyed. It was unsettling and alluring. But writing a number about that would not fit into this product. No, write the product, get results. Next week, new show, do it all over again. Nothing lasts. Except – yes, something does: memories. But First Date, is not memorable. Sorry. Nice while it lasts, though. I am so not going to mention the Chinese food allusion.
First Date (open run)
Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit http://www.firstdatethemusical.com
Running time: 95 minutes with no intermission