This weekend’s Drama Barn production is ‘Check Please’ by Jonathan Rand, a side splitting funny depiction of the perils of blind dating, directed by Burbs. Made up of just one act, it follows the romantic life of Guy and Girl, the seemingly doomed daters, who are clearly meant to be with each other.
‘Check Please’ may initially seem slightly disconcerting, when the audience realises that virtually the entire performance is made up of a series of one or two-minute-long skits. The staging is minimal; two restaurant tables stand at either end of the stage, one for Guy and one for Girl, played by Will Griffiths and Scarlet Simmons, and the spotlight shifts from one to the other as they take it in turns to experience one awful date after another. The only other piece of set was a sofa at against the back wall, which was a little redundant, being used only two or three times and potentially detracting from the simplicity of the two tables as the centre of the drama. The result of this bare stage is that the onus is totally on the actors to carry the play, and that they most certainly do.
George Blackman was the unequivocal star of the show, reducing the audience to hysterics on more than one occasion.
The blind dates are played by a male and female multirole character, who must switch from one weird and wacky character to the next in a matter of moments. Joanna Papanastassiou and George Blackman deserve immense credit for the way they handled these parts, playing, amongst many many other things, a mime, a bigamist, a kleptomaniac, pseudo linguistic expert and a gay method actor. For me, George Blackman was the unequivocal star of the show, reducing the audience to hysterics on more than one occasion. If I’m honest, I can’t remember a time I laughed more in a theatre than at his depiction of the ‘extreme’ Australian accountant, as he demonstrated his unusual methods of walking, reading a menu, and flossing. Joanna Papanastassiou was also highly skilled and hilariously entertaining, but occasionally failed to create the same distinction between her different characters, which, now and again, seemed to blur into one.
As the play progresses, the pace quickens, and the dates grow more and more bizarre, interwoven with the charmingly romcom-esque will-they-won’t-they storyline between Guy and Girl who grow more despairing as their best friends Hank (Charlie Ralph) and Kim (Steph Hayle) begin to fall in love in the meantime. Scarlet Simmons’ comedic timing is impeccable; her facial responses to the antics of the men sat opposite her and her long pauses before delivering her lines were perfectly executed. Her character is simultaneously sassy, headstrong and defeated, piquing when she discovers that her date is, in fact her cousin. She and George Blackman make for a dynamic pairing, and their chemistry is not always matched by Griffiths and Papanastassiou. Potentially the fault of the script, the latter sometimes lacked the sharp dialogue of their counterparts, although Will Griffiths’ delivery of bewildered one-liners ended these scenes on a high.
All in all, this production is set to be one of the theatrical highlights of the term. Its hyperbolic portrayal of the dating scene was perfectly observed, and a triumph for both cast and crew.
‘Check, Please!’ continues to run in The Drama Barn until Sunday night. For more information and to book tickets, visit www.yorkdramasoc.com now