Northlight Theatre. By Theresa Rebeck. Dir. Judith Ivey. With Beth Broderick.
Overused and ill-defined as the term may be, it’s near impossible to resist saddling Rebeck’s one-woman show with the “chick-lit” label. The elements are there: Thirtysomething single gal in the city? Check. Romantic misadventures? Check. Obsession with clothes and lots and lots of shoes? Check, check, check. Rebeck’s Haley Walker has an admitted shoe fetish; dozens of pairs line the edge of the stage, with still more residing in boxes crammed in every nook of Haley’s Manhattan apartment.
Haley has a bit more going on than some of her sisters in the disposable paperback world, though. She’s got a moody preteen daughter to worry about, the reason she’s just now diving back into the dating pool after leaving her pot-dealing ex-husband in Austin, Texas, a decade earlier. She also has a weighty secret related to her job as manager of a successful restaurant that takes the play on an unexpected, non–date-related detour toward the end.
Rebeck makes a few missteps, most notably leaning too heavily on Haley’s aw-shucks Southern naïveté (you’d almost think Texan equaled autistic) and failing to bring a payoff with the shoes—they’re such an overwhelming visual that we expect them to mean something in the end, but they never really do. The weaknesses are mostly smoothed over by Broderick’s appealing performance, however; she draws us in as confidantes and subtly illustrates Haley’s need to let her preconceived expectations fall away before she can find a potential Good Date. We’re rooting for her all the way.—Kris Vire