The Third Date, now playing at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, is a one-act play about that awkward stage in dating, after you’ve gotten past the initial “getting to know you” small talk, but before you’re entirely comfortable letting the other person past the barriers that that small talk is meant to maintain. During the early period when you’re still mainly trying to make a good impression, but past the point where you can convincingly keep that impression going.
The play focuses on Evan (Peter Cilella) and Allie (Megan Raye Manzi), a couple on their third date. Allie has agreed to come over to Evan’s apartment, an act that has all sorts of implications which neither of them is ready to discuss yet. They each make awkward jokes that the other doesn’t get, and try unsuccessfully to mask their overall nervousness.
As the date goes on, they each begin to talk about their most recent ex—which prompts each ex to show up in the other’s imagination and make them feel inadequate in comparison. Evan’s ex is the tall, gorgeous Barrie (Rebecca Mader from TV’s Lost, in her stage debut), who’s great at everything and beloved by everyone. She appears in Allie’s mind to taunt her about the fact that she and Evan are still very close, and how she’ll always be in the background of his relationships.
Allie’s ex is Helmer (Antonio Alvarez when I saw it, but usually Chris Wylde), the Teutonic Warrior whose image admonishes Evan that, if he really wants the relationship to succeed, he’s going to have to work hard on it. Possibly much harder than he wants to. As the evening wears on, the real and imaginary people mingle together and argue with one another until the whole scene becomes one of hilarious pandemonium.
Deborah Gross’ script is often very funny, as well as very true, with regards to our fears about dating, relationships, and commitment. Doug Hannah’s direction is spot on, and the two leads are very capable in their roles. The stand-out performances, though, are the exes. Especially Rebecca Mader, whose character is a total nightmare and the kind of person you love to hate.
All-in-all, this is a very good, very funny show, and worth checking out.
The Third Date has two more performances at the Hollywood Fringe festival—Wednesday, June 26, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 30, at 5 p.m. The show plays at the Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets are $15 and can be bought here.