Blind date from heaven

Nice Guys Finish...

By Eric Alter
Directed by Rob Sullivan
Midtown International Theatre Festival/Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex Stage II
312 West 36th Street (212/279-4200;;
Equity Showcase (closes Aug. 3)
Review by Elias Stimac

Nice Guys Finish... is a humorous and heartfelt look at that social phenomenon known as "blind dates." Whether you've been on them, or had friends and relatives go on them, or watched one of the myriad of reality programs on the subject, almost everyone has heard a few horror stories about these often awkward and uncomfortable arranged meetings.

Playwright Eric Alter covers all the bases on the topic, offering not only the experiences of the two daters themselves, Kimmy and Stevie, but also uncensored opinions and observations from their best friends. In fact, most of the story centers on the friends of the dating duo. Tommy (Rick Holloway) and Big Lou (Michael O'Hagan) are drinking buddies of Stevie, with Tommy being the aggressive, self-proclaimed expert on women and Big Lou taking more of a back seat as a laid-back observer. They are waiting at their local watering hole for Stevie to return from the big night out, anticipating the worst. In fact, they end up betting on whether Stevie will be rejected once again for being too nice, or if he'll actually toughen up enough to score.

Meanwhile, in a Mexican restaurant nearby, no-nonsense Sherrie (Takemma Morton) and nice but naive Jannie (Jenn Doerr) worry about their friend Kimmy, and pray that she won't get her heart broken by yet another stupid guy looking for lust instead of love. Contrary to the male perspective displayed on stage, these ladies claim they actually want a nice guy to come along and sweep them off their feet. They can only hope that Kimmy meets Mr. Right that night instead of Mr. Write-Off.

When the two daters finally meet up with their friends, it seems like consolation is in order. But until Stevie (Rob Sullivan) and Kimmy (Jennifer Crane) fully re-enact their date, it's not quite clear how the evening went for the two of them.

Director Rob Sullivan (ably assisted by actress Crane) did a great job of keeping the outcome of Alter's comic roller-coaster ride ambiguous until the final curtain. Alter examines "blind dates" from all angles, and succeeds in making this romantic comedy both tender and hilarious, and Sullivan gets much comic mileage out of the rich material. The middle section might get bogged down a bit by repetition, but the final encounter between sensitive Stevie and compelling Kimmy is worth being patient for.

The actors struck the right balance between silliness and seriousness, instilling a wide range of unique quirks and characteristics into their somewhat stereotypical roles. Jim Dingevan went over the top a bit in his supporting work as several peripheral waiters, but ended up making a winning impression as well.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Elias Stimac