For his playwright and directorial debut, C.J. Wilkins gave Kelowna exactly what they have been craving; the dirty, sexy, truth.
Finally a play that hilariously revealed the inner workings of online dating without making the same obvious swiping jokes that hover around app based dating.
Wilkins’ Swipe Right at the Kelowna Forum invited the audience to listen in on first dates and the normally private conversations that take place amongst friends leading up to and after the date.
Using screen-casting the over-sold theatre’s cellphones they could follow along with text messages, see when they got a ‘match’ and watch the actors flirt over the play’s dating app ‘Kindling.’
Following the dating rollercoaster that ensued between three men and three women as they incestuously date each other narrated by a bartender, Stacey (Joelle Neufeld) who hilariously narrates the dates, by translating “date lingo” into what they “really mean,” giving quick back stories on each character and making snide remarks
The play immediately opens with a match, Stacey, quips, “It’s easier than shopping online.” Her quick witted lines broke up the love driven performance and made a point to the audience that this isn’t another carbon copy, modern day romantic comedy.
The conversations between, Roxanne (Bonnie Esson), Jen (Zoe Sommerfeld) and Holly (Dana Murphy) seem all too relatable to Kelowna’s singletons looking for love, their complaints of not being able to find a good man, hopelessness and foul pick up lines are cheered on by a crowd that chimes in, “I’ve heard that one before.”
The chemistry between the girlfriends as they sneered at the idea of going on another online date, teasing each other and then coaxing one another into going on yet another online date was naturally comedic and felt as if over hearing a table over’s boozy brunch.
The buzzing of the audience’s cellphones indicated scene changes and a new date where Wilkins takes on the one night stand. The interactive use of cellphones made the audience feel as if they were a part of the play, calling out, cheering, boo-ing bad pick-up lines and cheering on the hook-ups.
Holly and Doug (John Van Dyk) quickly heat things up with a duel of “dick pic” one-liners and then in an unexpected use of the room, a red light comes on and glows from behind the audience. The couple then explicitly and fully clothed have sex in the bathroom while the audience cheers them on. Without breaking the couple returns to the stage to pay the bill and run back off stage together. The same night, Roxanne is suddenly on a date with Doug while Stacey narrates and the inter-dating of the characters has begun.
The riskiest scene of all is an on stage sex scene where the only thing between the actors nudity and the audience’s eyes are strategically placed hands and a quilt. Swinging each other around the stage, Ryan (Adam Weaver) and Jen bare (almost) all in front of the audience, in the name of finding love.
The women stole the show from their male counterparts with big personalities, quick punchlines and undeniable confidence. While the men cracked jokes around a football table they seemed bored of online dating and the stories it creates.
An attempt at a “skinny-fat test,” a way that Max (Scott Kirk) would rate and determine the physical shape of a woman before meeting them in person although felt realistic, as if pulled from conversation, fell flat. The bravado necessary to deliver such a crucial thread to the story was lost in delivery.
Max goes on to perfect the smooth-operator on a date where only Stacey’s eye-rolls can break the trance as Roxanne begins showing him her cross-stitch feminist artwork. He mirrors her movements on stage and mannerisms in hopes of getting laid while feigning interest in her work.
With a debut as successful as Swipe Right, which sold out for all three at 11 a.m. before opening night, Nov. 1 Wilkins’ won’t soon become a one hit wonder. These are the stories Kelowna has clearly been waiting to see brought to the stage.
The portrayal of how singles now navigate finding love in a technology based world was not founded on the constant dropping of one-liners for the sake of being funny. It held a reflection of the madness that ensues and how twisted our culture has become when it comes to dating, turning it into game, instead of what it once meant. Finding a romantic partner.
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