Shoe fetish 

Bad Dates at Horizon Theatre

Horizon Theatre's Bad Dates balances on some major feminine obsessions, particularly romance and footwear. Haley (Shelby Hofer), a single mom and successful restaurant manager, doesn't have a lot of sex but owns an ungodly amount of shoes.

Playwright Theresa Rebeck gives Bad Dates a chummy, just-between-us-girls tone that threatens to turn the play into the theatrical equivalent of a chick flick. Fortunately, Haley's ingratiating, slightly edgy personality makes the one-woman show closer to "Sex and the City" than Menopause the Musical. Haley talks us through a series of monologues about her love life and work as she dresses for impending dates. It's as if you're her best pal helping her primp before a night out.

Bad Dates makes a terrific showcase for Hofer. In the play's first moments, she preens over some prized pumps, then painfully hobbles around in them without admitting they're too small for her. Nevertheless, Hofer comes across not as a ditsy clothes horse but as a mature woman who knows what she wants and takes pleasure where she finds it. After a rare good date, she languidly stretches on her bed and lustily recalls the gourmet meal she shared. Directed by Jessica Phelps West, Hofer gives Haley plenty of Manhattan attitude and even an air of mystery that makes her an unreliable narrator: Haley pointedly does not mention the shoebox full of cash she puts under her bed.

Primarily Bad Dates follows Haley's mishaps as she re-enters the dating pool and endures a series of jerks, like the cholesterol-obsessed health freak at a French restaurant. Rebeck -- a co-executive producer on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" -- also injects a subplot involving organized crime. We learn passing details about the Romanian mafia's interest in Haley's restaurant, and note the mysterious phone calls that interrupt the evening until Bad Dates turns into a different, darker show than the way it started out.

A perfectly matched pair, Hofer and West can't quite reconcile Bad Dates' change in tone or the show's general lack of consequence. Nevertheless, Haley makes good company for 90 minutes, and as potential dates go, you could do worse.


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