Seven Seven Dates with Seven Writers: An ‘Unromantic Comedy’

© Paula Kamen 1999
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CRITICAL RESPONSE TO PREMIERE PRODUCTION:

“Whimsical and hip! “The irrepressibly witty Kamen…demonstrating a deft authorial hand at innovative theatrical convention…”
—Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

“Wickedly funny! hilarious!”
“Kamen is a smart, sassy humorist with an appealing streak of self-deprecation.”
—Albert Williams, Chicago Reader

“One of the funniest new plays in Chicago.”
—Jeff Zaslow, Chicago Sun-Times

REVIEWS:

Chicago Sun-Times, November 27, 1998

SYNOPSIS:

Comedy, one act; seven men (doubling possible) and one woman, one simple set, mostly monologue-based with some dialogue at the end.

Running Time: about 90 minutes without an intermission.

This satirical play chronicles a woman’s modern journey for romantic and self-understanding in an opinionated, self-absorbed, highly individualized urban world. In its study of heterosexuals, the play goes beyond cliched “battle of the sexes” material — such as Defending the Caveman — to make some original observations about the adversarial and competitive undercurrents ruling many relationships, especially among fellow artists.

But above all, the comedy is central. While about intellectual types, the play never hesitates to go for the cheap shot. Among other subjects, it contains extended riffs on Jewish/Catholic relationships, one-night stands, urban hipsters, and the bourgeois pleasures of Crate & Barrel. It also includes a very original one-person sex scene on a trapeze.

Belinda Berdes and Bob Dassie in 1998 ImprovOlympic production. In the beginning, main character Rhoda tells about her lifelong dream to date a writer because of their supposed empathy and depth — but that this vision had fizzled when she actually went out with seven writers. To explain what happened, she informs the audience that the dates will now be reenacted; however, she declines taking part because her presence is not necessary. So, she asks the audience to take her place on the dates.

The following drama is a series of monologues by seven writers (and then some face-to-face conversations when the characters learn to understand each other). These men’s monologues — which gradually reveal Rhoda’s personality and ambitions — are not a gimmick; they demonstrate the failure of men and women to actually talk to each other, and their tendency to talk AT each other, even to perform for each other. In the process, Rhoda and the main male character,

Peter, (date 6) a poet who is struggling about whether to take over the family business of concrete, confront their deepest fears about taking risks. Peter, the most realistic male character, represents the genuine heart of the play.

Adding urban flavor, these writers represent a wide array of Chicago neighborhoods and influential writing schools, including: the tortured poetry slammer, the Marxist Nelson Algren-enthuasiast living happily in poverty in Uptown, the arrogant playwright dating gorgeous actresses, the really bad improviser, the Gold Coast corporate-statement writer, the slimy and unscrupulous lesbian-obsessed freelancer, and the trendy Wired Magazine writer living in the most “cutting-edge” neighborhood of all, the site of the former Chicago Stock Yards. Non-local audiences are able to understand the play’s Chicago references through the monologues’ context.

PRODUCTION HISTORY:

  • Bathsheba Productions at the ImprovOlympic (extension), Chicago, Winter 1998.
  • Bathsheba Productions at Chicago Dramatists, Chicago, Fall 1998.
  • Workshop Production, Factory Theater Comedy Festival, January 1998.

AWARDS:

  • Two monologues published in Best Men’s Stage Monologues of 1998, Smith & Kraus, edited by Jocelyn Beard.

REVIEWS:

  • Chicago Sun-Times, November 27, 1998

© Paula Kamen 1999
Order Seven Dates