Dating. Dating in DC. A play about dating in DC. “This must be dystopian,” I thought as I entered Caos on F to take in the latest world premiere by Nu Sass Productions. To my delight, what the piece turned out be was nothing I had expected. 50 Ways to Date Your Aubrey is an energetic yet introspective reimagining of the one-woman show genre.
To begin, the eponymous Aubrey (Aubri O’Connor) emerges onto the stage, which is decorated with faux-marble columns and benches (designed by Lynn Sharp Spears, who also designed the costumes and directed the piece). Over a dreamy, tinkly soundscape (Shane Solo’s sound design is clever and at times hilarious), our protagonist waxes poetically about the nature of love. “What is your earliest memory of romantic love?” She continues this way until… there go the lights. Stage manager Charles (Charles Laskey) apologizes and we move on, until our playwright, Danny (Danny Rovey) bursts in barefoot, buzzed, and holding—gasp—new pages! It has now become clear that we are the witnessing the Noises Off! of the solo show format.
If you strip away the (often hilarious) diversions, the heart of 50 Ways to Date Your Aubrey is Aubrey recounting her journey toward polyamory—or “ethical nonmonogamy,” as she prefers. Her route to embracing forming romantic relationships with multiple partners is long and winding, from her first kiss in middle school, to losing her virginity to an evangelical Christian in high school, and the ones that got away (and didn’t) in college. There were some very real bumps in the road, including quite a few serious ones in the recent past. “I was cheated on a lot,” Aubrey notes at one point. “I thought polyamory would fix that. It didn’t. It fixed me.”
O’Connor, as our tour guide, is engaging and open throughout, keeping us invested to the very last moment. The metatheatrical outbursts and interruptions bring some variety and humor into the mix, and now I want entertaining (intentional) technical issues injected into all my one-person Capital Fringe shows.
The screwball hijinks aside, 50 Ways to Date Your Aubrey asks some very tough and deeply affecting questions, and looks critically at its own creation in a radical and thought-provoking way. What does it mean, we’re asked, that Aubrey has Danny—a man, her friend—write such a personal piece about her romantic life? How does that change the story? Whose story is it now? Is Aubrey the hero of these tales? The villain in her exes’ version of these events? Both?
“I have been holding on to a lot of stories,” Aubrey tells us. “Maybe too many.” In 50 Ways to Date Your Aubrey, she lays everything out on the table, and encourages us to do the same. It’s the rare solo show that makes you think more about your own life than the one belonging to the person on stage—and that alone is more than enough reason to see it for yourself.
50 Ways to Date Your Aubrey by Danny Rovin. Directed by Lynn Sharp Spears. Featuring: Aubri O’Connor, Charles Lasky, Danny Rovin, and Moriah (no last name given). Lighting designer: Allie Heiman. Sound designer: Shane Solo. Set and costume design: Lyn Sharp Spears. Stage manager: Charles Lasky. Produced by Nu Sass Productions. Reviewed by John Bavoso.