THEATRE: Blind Date to break fourth wall in search of a good man

Hey guys: Imagine going on a date with a hot female clown who REALLY wants to get to know you – and an entire roomful of strangers gets to eavesdrop.

It’s almost enough to make you want to give up hockey night in Canada, eh? Beginning previews on the Citadel’s Rice stage Saturday night, Blind Date is not a play. There is no script. This is not your usual theatre. Master Canadian improviser Rebecca Northan has created a lovable character named Mimi Gosselin, who selects a male volunteer from the audience and proceeds to go on a real date with him.

“It’s not difficult to make it real in the sense that the guy sitting opposite to me isn’t a performer,” she says. “He’s been put in a situation – we’re both in a situation where we’re a little nervous. We don’t know each other and we’re going to spend some time together and hope it goes well, like any date.”

Except in this case your date has a clown nose. The obvious question of “what’s up with the nose?” – a perfectly natural query when one’s blind date shows up with a clown nose – is dismissed as a theatrical convention.

“We don’t talk about it,” Northan says, adding, “If I did Blind Date without a clown nose it would be a really weird, creepy show. The clown nose gives permission and is reminder that this is ultimately a theatrical experience.”

Think of the popular Fringe show This Is Cancer, starring Bruce Horak in a ridiculous lumpen costume that gives him permission to do – or say – anything he wants, while at the same time spurring a serious audience dialogue about mankind’s most feared disease. Northan co-wrote and directed that show, too, which functions in a similar way to Blind Date: “The fourth wall is broken and we’re looking for truth. Truthful, human moments are what makes great theatre.”

Audience members used to Fringe shows that solicit volunteers just to make fun of them are in for a surprise. Mimi doesn’t want to embarrass her date. She wants to love him. She wants the audience to love him, too.

Northan says, “There’s something lovable about everybody, and everybody is amazing and everybody is the hero of their own life. That’s what you end up getting to see: A guy stepping up and rising to a challenge. The audience kind of falls in love with a guy. If a guy chosen on a given night is single, I’ve seen them end up with phone numbers from women after the show.”

It happened during a previous show of the piece in Edmonton, where a “delightful” young man revealed that his girlfriend had just broken up with him and didn’t tell him the reason why.

“And the minute he said that, every woman in the audience went, ‘Awwwww.’ He’s one of the guys who got phone numbers afterwards.”

All you single guys: Convinced yet? Are you ready to be made the subject of a surrogate date at the tender hands of a clown? It would behove you to behave as though you are actually on a date at the show – and if you already are, for God’s sake be careful – because Mimi mingles with the crowd before curtain time, sizing up her prospects. On stage, she makes her choice and bids her new “date” come hither – and away we go. This show has played in New York as well as cities across Canada, and may be gearing up to become a franchise. Only once has a guy refused the offer, Northan says, “And he spent the entire show kicking himself.”