Welcome to Haven World, where agoraphobic elevator operators are Stuck, you can discover Who Killed Santa?, get a sip of Pink Champagne, or watch the Vegas variety show of some Odd Ducks.
Always unique, always provocative and always hilarious, local playwright Neil Haven never fails to flip that entertainment switch. His latest scenario for Milwaukee’s rib-tickling enjoyment is intriguingly titled The Playdaters. No, this is not about parents bringing their kids together for a little terrible-two interaction, thankfully it’s something much more applicable to the world of single twenty and thirty-somethings: dating. Quite the prickly pear, the first time two people meet for romantic intentions can be— for some of us —about as comfortable as oral surgery on horseback and as enjoyable as ketchup-flavored ice-cream. As if dating itself weren’t complicated enough, when you throw a dating website into the mix, you have a potential recipe for social chaos— or a funny one-act play.
Dating has certainly been the through-line of many a previous stage and film production. The distinctive spin in Haven’s play is the exploitation of a dating website, in the form of pranks and games on oblivious singles, by two roommates for their own twisted entertainment. Haven is not known for shying away from anything irreverent. Expect many an extreme joke and edgy scenario that breaks down the conventions of romance and attacks it with a pointy stick of racy proportions. Be warned, the show contains adult language and content and is probably not fitting for anyone under that not-quite-adult-not-quite-child age of seventeen.
According to Haven, the idea for the play came to him when he was actually on a blind date and was inspired by his own experiences with an online dating website. The cast looks like a winning team. Starring Haven and Jeremiah Munsey, as well as Haven-written play veterans Elizabeth Shipe and the always delightfully riotous Karen Estrada, The Playdaters will be produced at the Tenth Street Theatre next weekend.
Haven is professionally coy about any of the more humorous specifics in the play, but he did have this to say: “Karen Estrada is playing several characters, with her usual hilarious grace. I will be biting my tongue off trying not to smile when she’s on as her final character. It’s incredibly silly and off-the-wall. There are crude hand puppets and savage beatings and time and reality are consistently manipulated. The play is full of physical bits and takes and sight gags.”
The four-show run of The Playdaters in Milwaukee is part of a fundraiser to support sending the play and cast to the Chicago Fringe Festival where it has been invited to perform September 1 through September 5. The Fringe Festival is an enormous theatrical event that features over forty productions performed in one week. It’s a tremendous honor to be invited and, for some, it can lead to further productions and script advancement. Following the Thursday, August 26 performance attendees are invited to stay for a “Send us to Chicago” Party that includes complimentary food from Toppers Pizza and a cash bar.
Haven is credited as the director but he indicates that directing duties are shared by the group, with everyone in the cast offering their suggestions and objective talents. “The blessing of having trained comedic actors in the room,” says Haven, “is that we can spend fifteen minutes honing a bit down to the perfect rhythm. I imagine it’s the sort of work the Marx Bros got to do.” If any theatrical production screamed for a first date setting before, this is the one…or, maybe not.
The Playdaters will run from August 26 through August 28, 2010 at the Tenth Street Theatre, 628 N. 10th Street. Curtain times are 7:30pm Thursday, 8pm Friday and 8pm and 10pm Saturday. Tickets are $10 and can be reserved by calling the Tenth Street Theatre Box Office: 414-271-1371 or online at www.intandemtheatre.org