Rebecca Northan in Blind Date
(© Greg Tjepkema)
Rebecca Northan in Blind Date
(© Greg Tjepkema)
Rebecca Northan is performing a public service in her improv-based showBlind Date, now at Ars Nova, in which she plays a stood-up French hottie named Mimi the Clown (complete with red rubber nose). While the piece might sound like one of those bachelorette-party gimmicks, Northan is essentially a couples therapist -- working preventively on the male half of a couple that may or may not as yet exist.

Even before the audience piles into the tiny theater -- where they will be plied with complimentary wine and popcorn to the strains of mellow Gallic pop -- Mimi is cruising the crowd, seeking a substitute blind date for the 90-minute exploration to come. Prospective partners, whether single or already involved, deserve to be forewarned (not for nothing does the program come with an indemnity waiver). Alternately gentle and aggressive, discreet and disarmingly frank, Mimi will be probing any emotional baggage and untoward behavior that might prevent her chosen subject from achieving romantic fulfillment.

Mimi's choice on a recent evening, a 24-year-old named Steven was model-grade handsome but evidently unaware of that fact (a winning combination) and just a bit reticent -- he even professed a fear of appearing boring. However, Steven blossomed under Mimi's tutelage, ultimately proving quite the mensch.

Lesson number one -- requiring a "time out" in a side stage reserved for impromptu coaching sessions -- was: "We don't talk about the nose." Sure, she had solicited his assessment of her appearance, but in the real world, she pointed out, "Would you say, 'Your nose makes me uncomfortable'?"

That faux pas swiftly dealt with, she encouraged the audience to clap "when he does something really good." Cue the positive reinforcement -- and the rare opportunity, Mimi exulted, to help "mold" a man. Indeed, encouraged by Mimi's own personal revelations, this anything-but-boring guy eventually opened up enough to reveal a fearsome shark-bite scar he'd acquired while surfing. He also proved incredibly game when Mimi proposed a "Choose Your Own Adventure" twist to the story line.

It wouldn't do to reveal where their simulated romance ultimately led them, but rest assured: both Northan and Mimi are fully aware that coupledom is not always a bed of roses. The upshot was at once shockingly graphic and screamingly funny.

While initially shy, Steven turned out so willing to play along that, before long, he -- the nonpro -- came into his own as a full partner in this hilarious and heartening high-wire act. In fact, thanks to the showcase that Mimi provided for him, along with her insightful guidance, a good portion of the audience probably left the theatre yearning -- depending on their own relationship status -- either to hook up with him or fix him up. Moreover, many of them may have well come away craving a repeat fix of this anything-goes foray into the terra incognita of human intimacy.