Embracing the World of Online Dating

Juan Hernandez and Russell Brock. (Photos courtesy of Chris Vecchio.)

A universal truth is that dating is never easy. In this age of online and digital dating, getting to meet someone for a romantic evening has become simultaneously simpler and more complicated. Going out with a person based on a promising profile can be refreshing, promising or a total disaster.

Many different types of dates occur in Circle Circle dot dot’s (CCdd) world-premiere production of the romantic comedy, San Diego, I Love You #SwipeRight. This is the sixth show in a series of site-specific plays staged all over San Diego County. The topic for the 2018 incarnation is bisexuality and technology.

Starting at the Thorn Street Brewery in North Park, audiences can choose two versions listed as “Follow Him” or “Follow Her.” Both choices have very similar scripts. They focus on Taylor (Russell Brock and CCdd’s costume mistress Kristin McReddie), a romantic soul who wants to pursue a committed relationship.

After a promising date ends abruptly with Baiely (Jaleesa Johnson in the “Follow Him” version and Brittany Allen in the “Follow Her” version), an employee who works for the San Diego Zoo, Taylor decides to broaden out and meet other San Diegans.

Community Outreach Coordinator Soroya Rowley, in collaboration with twelve other artists, took her inspiration from actual stories about online dating, an approach which gives the show a realistic feel. Theatregoers, particularly millennials, will often laugh, and occasionally cringe, at the highly relatable conversations Taylor shares with other single men and women.

Following the opening scene at the brewery, the other dates are staged at places like Santos Coffee House, Parkside Market and SD Ceramic Connection. Production Assistant, Crystal Brendan’s direction, with the help of a tour guide, allows all the events to run smoothly. There are also a few opportunities to explore the different locations, and these breaks for food don’t ruin the rhythm of the performances.

Both versions of Taylor employ much of the same dialogue, yet there are enough differences in the writing and acting styles of the ensemble to make the two tales worth watching. Subtle differences occur early on, because the male Taylor is a standup comedian, while the female Taylor is an improv performer.

Brock plays Taylor with a spontaneous sense of humor, and McReddie (who conceived the script) brings a slightly goofy and compassionate energy to her tale. Johnson, Allen, Juan Hernandez and Katie Hinckley portray the kind of people you might accidentally eavesdrop on in a crowded bar or restaurant. Part of the enjoyment of their performances is seeing how they communicate with Brock and McReddie.

Dairrick Khalil Hodges, Kristin McReddie and Brandon Potter.

In a piece already full of jokes and witty moments, it’s Taylor’s phone (Veronica Burgess in “Follow Him” and Brandon Potter in “Follow Her”) that is the source of the most offbeat laughs. Potter’s eccentric performance and Burgess’ more deadpan line delivery recite and act out Taylor’s texts, emails and messages with hilarious comic timing.

The biggest differences between “Follow Him” and “Follow Her” are Taylor’s interactions with a “Harry Potter” loving lawyer, Laura (Hinckley). In an almost-completely serious sequence, Taylor and Laura share their views about bisexuality.

What’s inspiring about Taylor, particularly during the talk with Laura, is that both McReddie and Brock show Taylor as being very comfortable when it comes to sexual orientation. Taylor’s confidence, open-mindedness and kindness makes the character a positive role model for the LGBT community.

CCdd’s latest presentation is an evenhanded and encouraging exploration of online dating. Performances for this genuinely upbeat and funny experience end this weekend, so be sure to find out why the San Diego, I Love You series is still continuing to thrive.

[box] Show times are Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m and 3:00 p.m for “Follow Him,” and 2:00 p.m, and 3:30 p.m for “Follow Her.” [/box]

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