Waiting for the show to begin, a drunk blonde starts crying in the lobby. “Everyone is so pretty!” she cries. She is dismayed. A few minutes later her and a friend are trying to convince a person seated at Quig’s Pub to let them sniff her fun-sized Snickers Bar. A third woman is asking a patron how her dress looks on her. There is a manic energy to the whole affair. We are here to see a live taping of The Chosen (a parody of ABC’s hit The Bachelor).
As we walk into the theater, we see a well-appointed dressing room (designed by Amanda Jensen). It turns out that the three women we saw in the lobby are members of a “Final Three Pact.” They each represent a trope of the reality TV universe. There is the ring leader, Taylor (Taiwo Sokan), the horny and racist Julie (Grayce Hoffman), and the virginal, “right reasons” contestant, Bridget (Sara Vanasse). Over the show’s brisk hour run-time we slowly become aware of the darker forces keeping these women here. They are being starved, monitored, and pumped full of alcohol. (CW: The show has a pretty heavy hand when making jokes about drinking, self harm, and disordered eating.)
The show does a nice job of exploring the ways in which The Bachelor distorts our views of what it takes to be a successful partner. Bridget wistfully hopes to be “the mother of a football team, have the heart of saint, and the boobs of Dolly Parton.” We also see how women are expected to tear each other down in the name of competition. The performances are all deeply committed and there are several very funny moments. All that said, this feels like pretty low-hanging fruit and well-tread territory. Those looking to glean any new insights about the romantic zeitgeist are not likely to find it here.
[Paper Doll Ensemble in co-production with Plays & Players, 1714 Delancey Place] January 25-February 1, 2020; paperdollensemble.com