Theater fans have another cause for celebrating the new year with Janet Luby's return to the stage in Theresa Rebeck's one-woman show, "Bad Dates" at the resurrected Bay Theatre.
After a fruitless search for a suitable Annapolis location, Bay Theatre chose Chesapeake's studio venue for a November Wine and Words reading that attracted an audience exceeding capacity.
If the troupe's loyal Annapolis fans continue to make the 20-minute drive to the Chesapeake Arts Center venue, a full season could emerge in Bay's future. That would be a win-win for those Annapolis fans as well as new ones the theater is cultivating.
Bay Theatre's production of "Bad Dates," directed by Richard Pilcher, is a comedy with underlying substance, showcasing Luby's talents and astounding depth. Pilcher and Luby collaborated a few seasons back in "Beyond Therapy," and Pilcher also directed Bay's splendid "Wit" and later "Master Harold and the Boys," among others.
Here, Pilcher finds and illuminates the subtle message beneath midlife dating perils. "Bad Dates" tells the story of Haley Walker, a trendy New York restaurant manager who is re-entering the dating scene after ending a disastrous marriage to a drug-addicted husband whom she divorced and left behind when she moved with their 5-year-old daughter to New York.
Eight years later, after devoting her energy to job and daughter, Haley is entering the dating scene.
An opening scene shows her in an elegant bedroom considering what she'll wear on a first date. Easily drawing us into her life, she searches for perfect shoes, trying each pair in a vast collection until she has emptied four closets as well as shoes liberated from boxes stored under the bed. Luby beguiles us with Haley's continuous prattle as she balances with a dancer's grace while searching for suitable 6-inch stiletto sandals among her collection of 600 pairs.
Through her nonstop chatter, we are informed that the restaurant Haley manages is owned by Romanian gangsters who have been arrested for laundering money — and her own shrewd accounting to ensure a future for her daughter and herself.
Haley later describes disastrous dates: a guy fixated on his troubled colon, another enchanted by bugs, a law professor who is gay and one who might be Mr. Right — except he fails to show for their anticipated tryst. In recounting her experiences, Haley reveals the authentic woman hidden beneath contrasting layers of vulnerability, business shrewdness, maternal protectiveness and trusting innocence.
Eventually, the audience is invited inside Haley's world as Luby removes the fourth wall to welcome us as fond friends.
Using the larger stage space of Studio 194, Bay's creative team has designed an environment for Haley to relate her dating ventures. Set designer Ken Sheats, a Bay veteran for six seasons, works his magic in this luxurious space with breathtaking results.
Props are handled by Joanne and Mike Gidos, who have accumulated a mind-boggling assortment of fanciful items to enliven the scene. And the entire production benefits from the lighting skills of Steven Strawn and Eric Lund.
Weekend performances of "Bad Dates" continue Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Jan. 26 at the Chesapeake Arts Center's Studio 194 Theatre, 194 Hammonds Lane, Brooklyn Park. Order tickets at baytheatre.org or at chesapeakearts.org.
Voices of Arundel
Earlier this month we heard the Arundel Vocal Arts Society segment of a Londontowne Symphony Orchestra concert at Calvert United Methodist Church in Annapolis — and also heard Londontowne's lively rendition of Leonard Bernstein's "Overture to Candide" conducted by Maestra Anna Binneweg.
The Arundel Vocal Arts Society choristers offered a moving performance of contemporary American composer Morten Lauridsen's "Lux Aeterna," combining elements of the Gregorian chant blended with a contemporary sound enhanced by Latin text.
Sounding larger than their numbers, the group brought a comforting serenity to Lauridsen's 1997 work.
Also on the program was a selection from Jerome Kern's 1927 musical "Showboat." Here the choristers displayed versatility, moving to the classic Broadway musical where male and female voices blended in "Make Believe," "You Are Love," "Why Do I Love You?" and "Ol' Man River."