'Blind Date' puts romance in the hot seat

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON
  • Updated: February 24, 2012 - 11:31 AM

REVIEW: A popular improvised comedy showcases the pain and humor of dating.

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Rebecca Northan in "Blind Date."

In a café, French temptress Mimi sits nervously waiting for her date. She has been there for two hours, sipping red wine in her form-fitting red dress. She also wears a clown nose that matches her lipstick. Who is the man that she might be meeting?

It could be anyone in the audience at the Ordway Center in St. Paul, where "Blind Date" is playing. Mostly improvised, "Blind Date" is part sociological study, part dating advice show and entirely entertaining. It's like an extended "Saturday Night Live" skit.

Created by Canadian writer-performer Rebecca Northan, who plays Mimi, "Blind Date" has been a critical and commercial success in Toronto and New York, with the backing of producer Kevin McCollum, formerly head of the Ordway.

The show has a clear, segmented structure. There are drinks at the café, a drive to an apartment, then the awkward questions about what the two parties should do next.

Northan is expert at milking situations for humor. Her Mimi has a high b.s. meter, and is very much a modern woman. Still, she tries to make her non-actor "dates" comfortable onstage as they become stars for an evening. If things get tense or uncomfortable, her "victim" (or, in this case, his wife) may call a time out. On Thursday, we learned a few things about Mark from St. Paul. He is a regular guy who was born in Brooklyn Park and is now into real estate and hockey. We got to listen to his stories about being the much-beaten-up third of three boys and watching him blush or get giddy as the date progressed. We also saw that Mark did not have Mimi's courage. She can cartwheel across the stage or do a slinky striptease during a game of Truth or Dare.

On Thursday, Mark was a hero. That's true of all the men in the show, Mimi explained. But if he were on a date in real life, Mark would be a creep, since he came to the show with his wife of 3 1/2 years, with whom he has a 7-month old.

Non-actor Mark played like a pro during his "Blind Date." He took a keen interest in Mimi, listening to her. He pulled out the chair for her at the restaurant and got the check. When she had car trouble, there he was mucking around under the hood.

He did show discomfort when it came time to French kiss Mimi. He did not open his mouth and made a face that Mimi described as looking like he was kissing a cat's bum. She called a time-out and consulted with his wife. She then had a vote from the audience about whether they wanted to see the rest of that scene (Mark clapped yes) or advance the story five years. The audience voted for five years in the future, when Mimi is pregnant at home and her water suddenly breaks. Mark's nervousness returned, as he helped to deliver the baby.

Go here for a video interview with Rebecca Northan.

  • BLIND DATE

    Who: Created and performed by Rebecca Northan, with Julie Orton at select performances. Produced by Kevin McCollum.

    When: 2 & 7:30 p.m. Sat. & Sun., 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Fri. Ends April 1.

    Where: Ordway Center, 345 Washington St., St. Paul.

    Tickets: $40-$55. 651-224-4222 or ordway.org.

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