Bawl Waiting: Flaims never far from a good cry.s never far from a good cry.

Sign up for our free newsletter

Theresa Rebeck’s one-woman play is an extended riff on men, Manhattan, and cute shoes, so it’s inevitable that the bony specter of Sarah Jessica Parker should hover so stubbornly over the production, no matter how much you may want to swat it away. The conceit of Bad Dates places us in the bedroom of 40-ish single mom Haley Walker (Melissa Flaim) as she prepares for, and returns from, the first dates she’s had since her divorce. So it’s lots of trying on shoes and outfits, appraising the results with a quick glance in the mirror, and trying on more shoes and outfits. Costumer Melanie Clark must have ransacked every outlet mall in Maryland to assemble the impressive hoard of stilettos and slinky dresses Flaim tears through. While this business goes on—and director Lee Mikeska Gardner deserves credit for varying these quick changes enough to keep them interesting—Haley dishes about the various men in her life. Flaim engages the audience well, but there’s what seems to be an intentional deliberateness to her performance: When Haley is happy she quivers with delight, and when she’s sad she flings herself across her bed in a slough of 180-threadcount despond. Flaim leans into her lines, pushing selected words and syllables at us in a thick Texas twang. Actually, it’s more than a twang, it’s a Hendrix lick: In Flaim’s mouth, for example, “unspeakably chic” becomes “uhnSPAKEuhblay SHAYk.” Yes, it’s distracting, but it does give her the elbow room she needs to find a few quieter moments in the play to let Haley’s wistful exhaustion show through her bouncy façade. You’ll want those moments to lead somewhere, but Bad Dates cannot oblige. Author Rebeck makes some half-hearted attempts to build tension: Mysterious phone calls, throwaway lines that boomerang back a scene or two later, and for a while the sheer size of Flaim’s performance seems to indicate that we’re in the presence of an unreliable narrator. But it turns out Rebeck is a lot more interested in tilling the “men are like this, women are like that” patch of ground, and your appreciation for Bad Dates will depend on your taste for the modest insights she unearths there.