“First Date” is a delightful night of summer entertainment in downtown Annapolis. It was written by Austin Winsberg with lyrics and music by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, and directed by Jake Schwartz. This funny and endearing play about dating may be too close to home for many but reminds us all of the importance of getting out there and making connections with others.
If you’re looking for a night of laughter and fun, ‘First Date’ will not disappoint.
The premise of the play is simple enough. It centers around a blind date with nervous, nerdy investment banker Aaron (wonderfully played by Zac Brightbill) and the artsy-with-attitude Casey (played by Cera Baker, who is a natural for this part). First impressions leave everyone thinking it is a hopeless mismatch between people with absolutely nothing in common. Aaron is practically quaking in fear of what Casey thinks of him. He misspeaks, takes it back, says something goofy, then apologizes. Casey is ruthless in calling him out without a bit of empathy for his nervousness. When they learn the date was set up between Casey’s sister Lauren and her husband who is Aaron’s work associate, they decide to give the date a few more minutes, which leads to a rollicking night of insults, miscues, and some tender connections.
The couple is hardly alone in this bar. The other patrons alternately pop up to serve as various characters in either Casey or Aaron’s subconscious. Appearances are made by Aaron’s best friend, his ex, Casey’s loser ex-boyfriends, her know-it-all sister, and a ridiculous dance number of Google characters that surround the couple while they are frantically trying to dig up dirt on each other on their phones.
The surrounding cast makes the play rich. Geraden Ward is terrific in his various parts. As Casey’s bail buddy Reggie, he dutifully and repeatedly calls Casey to give her an excuse to get out of the date. She ignores his calls as the date gets interesting, making him alternately worried about being replaced as a best friend and thinking that she’s been kidnapped and murdered. He is also hilariously familiar as Casey’s unemployed rocker ex-boyfriend who is the epitome of a bad boy and an absolutely loser.
Cameron Walker is equally impressive as Gabe, Aaron’s best friend. He pops up from behind the bar or out from under the table again and again as needed to stop Aaron from doing stupid things, like talking about his ex or ordering the dreaded unmanly salad. He also shines as Casey’s stoner ex. Blake Martin is a chameleon playing Casey’s useless and expensive therapist and the brutally honest (but talented) waiter.
The supporting women are equally first-rate. Casey’s sister Lauren, played by Emily Decker, just can’t leave Casey alone. She relentlessly gives advice wrapped in comments that make Casey feel like she’ll never do anything right. Rose Hutchinson, who plays Aaron’s ex, is obnoxiously seductive and dogged in distracting Aaron from the task at hand.
One other standout is the live orchestra that always graces ASGT performances and is conducted for this production by Paige Rammelkamp. Cleverly hidden behind the set in this small space, they add a professional touch to the live theatre experience.
Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre is an open air and intimate setting right downtown and across from the harbor. If you’re looking for a night of laughter and fun, “First Date” will not disappoint.
Running time: Approximately One hour and 30 minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: Rated PG 13 for language, adult themes, and mild references to sexual activity.
“First Date” runs through July 22, 2023 at Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, 143 Compromise Street, Annapolis, MD 21401. Performances start at 8:30 pm. All ticket sales are now online, and tickets are print-at-home. You select your own seats and receive an email confirmation once the order is submitted. For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org. (If the performance is rained out, patrons can use the tickets toward any future show, in any season.)