Men aren't intentionally evil (at least not most of us), but the entire process of meeting someone for a permanent relationship is fraught with danger. Do you act as perfect as possible and wait for sparks to fly to reveal the true you? Or is it better to start with the ugly truth and present a person even your mom was annoyed with? Either way, you're bound to screw up. Trust me. I'm a guy, and all my female friends swear it's our fault.

Settling into my seat for Mad Cow Theatre's production of playwright Theresa Rebeck's Bad Dates, I was prepared for a pleasant evening of male-bashing. It's a one-woman show, and the set is buried in shoeboxes and a closet full of broken dreams. But by the curtain call, I found that a solid plot had motivated the story, as well as the titular dates and even the footwear.

We meet single mom Haley Walker (Robyn Pedretti), who has leveraged herself into a waitress job at a trendy eatery. The influence of the Romanian mob adds a cachet of implicit danger, but it takes five years before she notices that her sex life is zeroed out. Fashion advice from her 11-year-old daughter and a genuine pair of Jimmy Choos can't shield her from gay lawyers and cholesterol-obsessed men. It takes a full-fledged legal crisis to push Haley into the arms of a Zen lawyer and plant the seeds of a fun weekend.

One-person shows are like tightrope acts with no net: There's no rescue if you fall. Fortunately, Pedretti carries the show with practiced grace and fleshes out the personalities of all those people in this story who never cross the stage. Director Dave Russell brings an insurance policy, with Pedretti spending most of the show dressing, undressing or standing around in sexy lingerie. That's nice, but everything would have worked just as well if she wore sweat pants.

The supporting cast includes shoes from the original New York run of the show. Maybe they were blessed by Andrew Lloyd Webber; a good luck charm never hurts.

Bad Dates
Through Feb. 26
Mad Cow Theatre


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