THEATER REVIEW: Bad Dates at Shakespeare & Company



Bad Dates
By Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Eric Tucker
(Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, Mass., $16-$48)
A Shakespeare & Company production of a play in one act
Starring Elizabeth Aspenlieder as Haley Walker
Reviewed by Lesley Ann Beck
[LENOX, Mass.]—Haley Walker’s New York apartment is full of shoes—six hundred pairs of shoes, from glitzy stilettos to elegant pumps to cowboy boots, and in the marvelous new production of Bad Dates at Shakespeare & Company, Elizabeth Aspenlieder delivers a brilliant comic depiction of Haley Walker’s quest to find the right man, as well as her quest to choose the just-right pair of cute shoes. 
In this one-woman comedy, Haley is a divorced single mother, originally from Texas, who is finally finding some success as the manager of a trendy New York restaurant. She decides to start dating again, with mixed results. Aspenlieder as Haley welcomes the audience into her apartment; we get to spend time with her as she is getting ready for her dates, trying on one outfit after another, and trying on endless pairs of shoes. Aspenlieder is delightful as she rattles on, sharing Haley’s story, with all the tribulations of her legendary bad dates. But Haley is an optimist and believes that she will find love again, just as she knows she will find the perfect pair of shoes.
This show was first produced at Shakespeare & Company in the winter of 2009; Aspenlieder won the prestigious Elliot Norton Award for her performance. This summer’s production has a new director and new designers, and is quite different from the earlier version, in appearance and in attitude. The show is a comedy, and it is very, very funny. But under the skilful direction of Eric Tucker, Haley Walker is not just hilarious; she is human and poignant and warm and generous and even brave.   
Haley’s apartment is a bit of a mess; Carl Sprague has created a very believable apartment for her, with colorful shoe boxes filling the closet, cramming the book shelves, and balancing precariously in stacks from the bedroom to the living room. The costume design is just right, too: there are racks of outfits and Aspenlieder wriggles into one outfit after another, changing blouses, skirts, dresses, sweaters, and somehow ending up dressed and out the door. And it all works; the production is cohesive at ninety minutes without an intermission.
Go to see Bad Dates for Elizabeth Aspenlieder’s wonderful performance; from her spot-on comic timing to the heartbreaking moment when her world appears to be unraveling, her Haley Walker is just irresistible. It’s a really good date.
Set design, Carl Sprague; Costume design, Lena Sands; Lighting design, Stephen Ball; Sound design, Michael Pfeiffer; Original music and sound by Dave Wilson; Stage manager, Katie Shade
(Through September 12; running time is 90 minutes with no intermission)
Lesley Ann Beck is the managing editor of Berkshire Living magazine. She reviews theater and the arts for
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