Theater Review - Mating rituals

Maybe it’s the height of masculine insensitivity for me to suggest that Theater Emory’s Dating and Mating in Modern Times could use a circumcision. The play’s 11 monologues offer a female perspective on sex and courtship, but the first two are by far the worst, indicating that playwright Elizabeth Wong should snip a little from the front and flesh out the ones that remain.

Dating and Mating begins with a female executive (Widdi Turner) bracing herself for artificial insemination and holding a beaker of semen, making strained wisecracks about “love juice” and turkey basters. For the follow-up, a Southern belle (Anne Maxwell) riffs on reality-TV dating shows, but Theater Emory apparently couldn’t a find a young actress who could deliver a convincing Southern accent.

The world premiere production begins to pick up steam with a segment on speed-dating featuring the ingratiating comic timing of Alexis Hauk. Dating and Mating’s most original monologue comes from Kristen Wood — wearing a giant, black-feathered headdress and not a lot else — who talks about bad break-ups and the nature of showgirls: “People think we’re hookers, but we’re artwork.”

Much of the time, playwright Wong relies too heavily on cliches and familiar personality types, like the rad skate-punk (Alex Newell) and the chatty cyber-dater (Brooke Meredith), who both say “whatever” a lot. Since many of the brief monologues end at the moment of connection, Dating and Mating mostly consists of superficial character snapshots that have few fresh insights.

Jill Jane Clements’ climactic speech ends Dating and Mating on such a high note that it makes the entire play seem better in retrospect. With a glorious lack of self-consciousness, she talks about being a “cock connoisseur” and finishes by leading the cast in a kind of life-affirming war chant of penis euphemisms. By ending Dating and Mating that way, Wong seems to be saying, “Take that, Vagina Monologues!”

Dating and Mating in Modern Times plays through Oct. 4 at Theater Emory, Mary Gram Munroe Theater, 605 Asbury Circle. Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m. ; 5 and 9 p.m. Sun. $15. 404-727-5050.