Four years ago, Sixth Street Playhouse presented playwright Robert Caisley's action-adventure Kite's Book, establishing Caisley as an author to watch. Last year, he returned with Happy, one of the best plays of the season. Now, Caisley returns a third time, with Date Night, a triptych of unconnected one-acts, each helmed by a different director, each telling a tale of romantic love gone totally sideways.
The third time, unfortunately, is not a charm.
Yes, there are some strong, committed performances in Date Night (and one truly great one). There's also one play so off-the-wall and disturbing you may want to tell people about it just to see the stunned look on their faces.
The first piece is the best, largely due to an outrageously entertaining performance by Craig Miller. Titled "The Apology" and tightly directed by Lennie Dean, the fierce, funny monologue follows a stammering goofball apologizing to an unseen woman. What begins with the description of a truly bad date turns rapidly into something much, much darker. Unfortunately, many of the goofball's explanations and revelations contradict and challenge the logic of his previous remarks, which strains the already thin credibility of the entire piece.
The second one-act is "Hungry 4 U," directed by Edward McCloud. As a young newlywedded couple (Rose Roberts and Braedyn Youngberg) arrive at their honeymoon hotel, it is clear that there is something slightly off about these two. But who would guess that what these crazy kids are into involves so much blood and so much screaming? What might have been a tasty little shocker worthy of Alfred Hitchcock loses some of its power by taking far too long to get to its creepy, icky (but sort of satisfying) point.
Speaking of taking too long, Date Night's third and final piece is a tedious, repetitive slog-fest called "Kissing." Directed by Miller, the rambling one-act about an extramarital interoffice affair (Jessica Short Headington, Marianne Shine), runs a full 90 minutes, structured as numerous different drafts of what is basically the same scene, intercut with narration about kissing and some stuff about the workmates' spouses (John Browning, Randy St. Jean) wandering around in a park.
If "Kissing" featured sharper writing or had been directed with some sense of pace and purpose, the endless running time might have been acceptable. But as a capper to an already uneven evening, this dry, boring kiss comes as no consolation after what's a very unsatisfying date.
Rating (out of 5): ★★