What’s a vowel between friends?
The answer, apparently, is an entire app. It’s 2014, and the King’s swiveling hips have been replaced by swiping fingers – and Cupid is not happy about it. In the Public House Theatre’s latest, Love Me, Tinder, writer and director Byron Hatfield has a disgraced Cupid (Mike Schiff) on the prowl for some poor unsuspecting sap in need of some love help (and who will perhaps, in return, provide the “demigod of love” with the epic bromance he so desperately longs for). This Cupid, though, is not the cloud-riding baby of lore: he’s grown up, fat, with Bea Arthur-cum-Richard Gere hair and the sort of lamentable archery skills that would have Katniss chortling in the front row. And he’s up against the almighty power of cyberspace. (Or Internets, as he disdainfully calls it.) It’s no wonder protagonist Stephen (Londen Shannon) is loath to accept his help.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, winsome girl-next-door Jen (Ashley Stein) is being indoctrinated into the ways of smartphone sex by swipe-happy friend Linda (Mal Marcus), who has lit more than a few matches using the infamous app. In fact, not only does Linda use Tinder, she works for the company – and it soon becomes clear her boss Esmerelda (Jessica Kent) is dealing in more than just the business of one-night stands. What starts out as a slice-of-dating-life soon evolves into an epic battle of Homeric proportions.
While the entirety of the plot is perhaps a bit ambitious for a 75-minute show (some of the developments are a bit blink-and-you-miss-them), the rollicking ride sweeps the audience along one big inside joke: what a delightfully hot mess today’s dating world can be. Schiff, who could be a doppelganger for Justin Long in both looks and manner, is laugh-out-loud endearing as the wayward love god; Shannon and Stein are lovable as the earnest romance-seekers; and Marcus and Kent add great zany flavor as two very different types of single-minded woman. The clever set design incorporates a screen that lets us in on the potential paramours the characters are snap-judging; it’s also used during scene transitions to display some of the more awkward possibilities out there. (I won’t give away how these weirdos are portrayed, but let’s just say it involves some great posturing and gender-bending.) For anyone who’s forayed into the online dating world, Love Me, Tinder is a kooky, light-hearted, and relatable look at what it means to find love – or even just lust – in today’s world.
Or, to put it in simpler terms: it’s definitely a swipe right.
Love Me, Tinder runs this weekend and next at the Public House Theatre, Fridays and Saturdays at 10 pm. Click here for tickets and more details.
Also, keep an eye out for the debut of the theater’s film branch, PubHouse Productions. It will launch later this summer with a new web series, The Show Might Go On, which chronicles “a small theatre struggling with insane board members, fading glory after their 90's hay day, and a sudden angel investor who's not what he seems” (Sasha Kraichnan, Public House Theatre). Sounds like another one to watch.