Writer/producer Gary Lennon (Orange Is the New Black, Justified, The Shield) debuts his romantic comedy Dates and Nuts – about an animal rights activist searching for Mr. Right in the dating jungle of New York City – at the Bootleg Theater in LA. Says The Hollywood Reporter: “Deft characterization and a keen ear for dialogue… [it’s] the perfect date play.”
Growing up in Hell’s Kitchen, Lennon is no stranger to New York vernacular, which is used abundantly by his endearing but loud-mouthed protagonist Eve (Elizabeth Regan) as she and her best friend Marie (Dianna Aguilar) ogle men from the steps of a Brooklyn brownstone. Eve is on a reckless rebound after having been dumped by her guy … again. “I haven’t had sex in so long my hymen is growing back,” she groans, leering at everything that passes.
It’s an amusing opening hook that puts Eve center stage [for the opening monologue]. In the role of Eve, Elizabeth Regan brays at the audience in the early going but mostly in a good way, treading gracefully between funny, obnoxious and ultimately sympathetic even when she’s bawling out gay guys for being gay, and also because her last boyfriend left her for another guy … just like the one before him.
Al (Josh Randall) is an easygoing guy with a languid disposition, a masculine yin to Eve’s jangly yang. Stood up by her date, she spurns Al at first but he lingers, sensing a natural fit with Eve.
And so she gets her man, except two weeks later they still haven’t had sex because he wants their relationship to be about more than that. It seems weird and Eve begins to wonder if Al isn’t A) Gay, or B) Married, a bit of mystery cleverly written in by Lennon to give his narrative a little more plot than boy meets girl. When Eve finds a heartfelt note from Al to someone named Mary, she explodes with jealousy but of course it all works out in the end…
Dave Scotti has a hilarious turn as an inept lounge lizard who hits on any woman that will listen. A pass at Eve triggers her to pounce like a cheetah on a prairie dog, sending him scurrying.
As funny as Scotti is in the role, even he is upstaged by DarrylStevens as Patrick, the transvestite who lives next door to Eve. Stevens is given many of the play’s funniest moments, easy set-ups that he has no problem knocking out of the park. The play’s most under-written role falls on Dianna Aguilar, who mainly serves as an exposition board for Eve, nodding along or rolling her eyes to her friend’s lengthy monologues. It’s a thankless role that Aguilar gamely makes the most of.
With Regan’s bravado performance, Lennon’s clever one-liners and a mercilessly brief running time, [Dates and Nuts] happens to be the perfect date play.
For dates, times, and ticket sales, click here.
Also, a fascinating interview with Gary in Glass Half Full in Hollywood about how he went from an orphaned street punk in Hells Kitchen to a respected Hollywood writer/producer, and the advice he gives to aspiring screenwriters.