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Dates & Nuts (Bootleg Theatre)

A fascinating mis-fire is Gary Lennon’s over-written comedy about a sexy New Yorker, cynical Eve (Elizabeth Regen), who cannot understand why no guy will date her (could it be in spite of her overt sexualizations, she is too obnoxious, too apt to talk without listening, too pushy and dreadfully neurotic?  Naw…).  Her best friend, Mary (Dianna Aguilar) puts up with Eve’s hopeless romantic ideals, sabotaged though they may be by her aggressive behavior, which keep men away from Mary, even though she’s as pretty as she is.

Eve meets her match, though, in a bar, when Al (Josh Randall) breaks through her defenses long enough for them both to see inside each other.  But even then, Al’s life comes into enough focus to blow them both out of the water, leaving Eve shell-shocked, dismayed and even more cynical about men. 

Another male stereotype, Donald (Dave Scotti), short and slick, tries his best to bed her (to no avail) and Eve and Mary’s street competition, dragster Patrick (Darryl Stephens), with all her/his street wisdom can’t make a dent in Eve’s fragile ego-protections.

Lennon has set up an over-familiar, but do-able, situation, undone by his repetitive dialogue, in a play which was supposed to last 90 minutes, but felt double that.  Wilson Milam’s direction wasn’t able to get past the l-o-n-g stretches where essentially nothing happens which might advance the plot, but he did wonders in most of his casting (we thank the Theatre Gods for great casting, oh, yes, we do).

Admittedly, I detest the Eve’s and the Donald’s of the world (how do you communicate with people who can’t listen, let alone respond intelligently?).  But Regen’s Eve was smarter than even the sexy woman knew, and the actor made her fascinating, if repellent.  (Not a contradiction, either.)  Her rapid mouthings were funny (up to a point) and Eve’s sensitivities were amply on display, along with her physical beauty.  Randall found all his quiet moments, including some strengths, and Aguilar and Scotti brought some roundness to their just-this-side-of-cliché characterizations.  Only Stephens betrayed his lack of stage-training by speaking just at the threshold of not being heard, let alone understood.  We’ve admired him on film and on TV, but he needs to learn to speak up.

For my taste, the evening was tough-going, but with some strong cutting (or even re-writing), Lennon might actually have a play with future legs. 

Dates and Nuts plays through July 13th at the Bootleg Theatre, 2220 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90057.  Tickets:  213.389.3856 or at