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Center Stage: A ‘First Date’ you hope never ends

By Staff | Feb 4, 2015

About the most scary and dangerous actions taken by single humans is the dreaded blind date.

Who doesn’t love a blind date? Of course by that what I really mean is who does love blind dates? Blind dates manage to bring out that kind of “what I really meant to say was” syndrome.

This edgy, funny, urbane and adult appealing show, currently tickling the funny bones of the Off Broadway Palm audiences, begins when Soho (NYC) artist Casey (serial date smart, savvy, “big city girl” played to perfection by Kaitlin Doughty), and Wall Street trader Aaron (a nice Jewish boy with great values but no blind dating smarts portrayed by gifted newcomer John Wilkening), both experiencing that all important first date “look-see.”

These hookups consist of a quick drink, which slides into a quick bite of dinner with side dishes of Google checkouts, fake emergency phone calls (by nervous friends), a mess of bad boy and uptown girl/mean girl exs, and for dessert some seriously cheeky girl/guy chemistry.

This adult-singles-searching-for-love performance was a book by Austin Winsberg, and is set to a pop-rock score by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner.

“First Date” has been thoroughly mined to get laughs — and nods of agreement — from the “been there/done that” audience members, regardless of age or gender. As a matter of fact, I’ve got to report that the audience at the Palm the night I attended was a virtual live laugh track, erupting with gusts of guffaws at each joke or familiar spin around the dating game between Aaron and Casey.

After zigzagging between getting-to-know-you moments of bonding and oops missteps, like when Aaron learns that Casey is a serial dater, he jokingly nicknames her “Blind Date Slut” (a no-no if ever there was one), nevertheless these two all-wrong-for-each-other types begin to find common ground. On hearing that Aaron’s fiancee dumped him at the altar, Casey does an about face, so that by the evening’s end they’ve established tentative rapport, ending just in time for the lights to dim on a passionate smooch (no, that’s not a spoiler).

Telling the tale of the couple’s rocky road to love, or at least another date, has a cast of characters that are voices in their heads. Aaron is haunted by memories of his ex/Allison (played to the hilt by talented Caitlin Newman), while being date drilled by Aaron’s best buddy (awesomely hilarious and making his Palm debut Michael Karraker).

While Casey’s primary pest is her sister Lauren (delightful comedienne and Off Broadway Palm funny lady Erin Fish,) Sis scolds Casey for reminding her baby clock is ticking, also telling her to get on the stick!

Hurry up! Commit, already! Get a ring! Get a guy! Get going.

Casey also hears (well actually we do, on the cell phone’s message service from her Gay Best Friend Reggie/the one, the only, the fabulously funny Erik Hogan). Reggie rings her cellphone to give her a chance “to bail,” his campy endings to each cell-phone hang up are terms of endearments.

Reggie’s “Bailout Songs”- 1-2-3, are some of the funniest song moments in the show and Hogan knows how to milk them for laughs.

Let’s face it, and simply put, “it’s a blast from the dating past” for most of us, but it will paste an ear-to-ear grin on your face and a spring in your step that thanks God that’s over (the dating game, that is).

This is one “First Date” you won’t want to end, with hair-trigger timing brilliantly directed by Paul Bernier and wonderfully choreographed by Ford Haeuser.

Whatever you do, make your reservations now for this crowd-pleaser. Start by phoning the box office at (239) 278-4422. Don’t wait, this show has the earmarks of sold out written all over itand it plays until March 7.

When you phone, remind ’em Marsha sent you.