Contemporary dating for most people is a hamster wheel; no matter how fast you run, you’re still in the same spot, doing the same thing. The Binaries Between Us, a new show at Studio Porte Bleue, shows contemporary dating as an uncomfortable dance. Four actors in constant motion recreate the pain of the experience via the screaming online profile, the game of texts, and the disappointing face to face. While the movements are highly stylized, the words and emotions are true to life.
Things begin as our four nameless characters (Colin Lalonde, Erin Lindsay, Jesse Rose, and Matt Xhingnesse) stand in a row, their phones beeping and buzzing with text message sounds. At the sound of a knife on a wineglass, a metronome starts and the four begin to move into pairs for the first of several vignettes about contemporary dating. The vignettes flow from one to the next as a kind of dance, and in fact I wouldn’t entirely characterize this as theatre so much as contemporary dance. Though the motions initially seem affected and irrelevant, they communicate the overall awkwardness and repetition of the experience. As certain types of movements repeat, they are matched to specific aspects of the dating process that also repeat with each failure to connect.
The vignettes themselves are quite funny, poetry in motion. In one, the actors recite parts of online profiles. It is easy to recognize the sincere, wordy divorcee who spills out her identity as she contrasts with the goofy gems from profiles that stick out, “I’m tall for an Asian,” “If you don’t care about looks, message me,” and “I’m 5’9″ and I don’t like to share.” The abundance of choice makes even those that are unique sound repetitive as each tries to play an angle.
A clever vignette addresses the frustration of not connecting by text. One pair begins facing each other, clocking from side to side, reciting a text message in which they can not seem to connect. “Tuesday tacos?” asks one. “Judo,” replies the other. Some responses are given as “smiley face” or “winkey face.” Oh the brevity of the emoji. This initial dance becomes more complex as the second pair joins in, resulting in a fugue of conversations.
The vignettes of face-to-face disconnect where one pair carries on a dialogue and the other provides the internal mental states are just as witty. During a hipster-appropriate meal, one of the characters explains that is perfect night is one spent watching “‘Sergein Eisenstein,’ he said impressing himself.” Among other favorite moments in the show, there is a two man diatribe about being the nice guy and the friendzone, delivered as a profile. I also liked the three person vignette where one character rejected her suitor for another, leaving the poor abandoned man to text his pleas for a second chance into the ether.
All in all, this short show captures the frustrations of contemporary dating in an entertaining and intelligent way. It especially captured the binary yes-or-no nature of the experience. The 0, the rejection, is easy to obtain, given at every stage of the dance easily. 0 for a bad profile, 0 for a bad text, 0 for saying the wrong thing on a date. The desire to connect and the unforgivingness of having to compete with a multitude of other potential suitors is all too familiar. The short length of the show is somewhat recouped by the Studio Porte Bleue tradition of post-show discussion over wine and smiles. In fact, those singles (or those seekers) who attend are likely to leave with a potential date of their own.
The Binaries Between Us is at Studio Porte Bleue (3035 ST Antoine suite 378; buzz to be let in). Thursdays to Sundays, February 11th to 28th. 8 p.m. $20/15. Tickets HERE.