Maplewood’s The Theater Project presents, for their close-of-summer production, Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage! The show, which relies heavily on audience participation, takes the form of a seminar on the proper way to form romantic relationships. Playwrights Ken Davenport and Sarah Saltzberg utilize advice purportedly from dating manuals from the 1910s through the 1950s to shine a spotlight on the absurdities put forth in the name of “proper behavior” for teenagers when it comes to the opposite sex.
Sophisticated comedy, this is not.
Ellen Revesz takes center stage as Miss Abigail, a self-styled expert in romantic affairs. Her wildly out-of-date advice is delivered with the look of a TV hustler desperate to make a sale. She is nonetheless determined to brave her way through, clinging desperately to her library of how-to books and her repertoire of flirty tricks. However, Revesz seems to be defeated by the material she’s given. In looks and vocal tone, she appears to be pushing hard to land the few truly comic lines she has.
She is assisted by Thomas Vorsteg as Paco, her Peruvian assistant. His near-slavish attention to Miss Abigail barely masks his deep romantic desire for her. Miss Abigail’s insensitivity to his advances during the course of the show causes him to act more and more frustrated as the seminar wears on. Vorsteg is given much more to play with; his character is a tightly-coiled mass of infatuation, desire, jealousy, concern, and bonhomie delivered in overconfident Spanglish. And in general, Vorsteg spreads a goofy veneer of physical comedy over the proceedings.
For those who like an evening in which audience participation is encouraged, if not downright required, Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage! will prove to be an enjoyable summer evening in the theatre.
Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage! is presented by The Theater Project in the Black Box Studio Space at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Maplewood through August 27th. For more information or to order tickets, call 908-809-8865 or go to thetheaterproject.org.