'The Blind Date Project': Theater Review

Courtesy of The Blind Date Project
Actress Bojana Novakovic improvises a blind date with an actor unknown to her before curtain time in a strong premise with hit-or-miss potential.

Actress Bojana Novakovic explores blind dating at a Hollywood bar in her new improv piece.

Any social interaction carries an inherent level of drama -- whether it be the minute concerns of a simple store purchase or the more perilous interaction known as the blind date. For Bojana Novakovic (Rake), she explores the latter in her improv piece, The Blind Date Project, now showing weekly at The Three Clubs cocktail bar in Hollywood.

The beginning of the show finds Novakovic in a salmon-colored skirt with a seaweed green sweater thrown over it, waiting at the bar for her date, an actor whom she's never met. Then Adam Busch (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) comes through the door wearing a brown blazer, green corduroys, glasses, and about a week of growth on his chin. Among the first words out of his mouth are, “You’re not good at hiding your disappointment.” And when Novakovic unconsciously edges her chair away, he observes, “You’re full of very encouraging signs.” Both lines receive laughs from the audience, who know that that first scene can be a make-it or break-it moment.

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Before the performance, each actor is given a "want," in which they are trying to obtain from the other, whether it be marriage, sex, money or any number of things. The night proceeds with prodding from director Scott Rodgers who sits in the audience, texting cues to his cast. A cell phone interruption is a potent point to riff off of and occasionally the actors do, with Novakovic disappearing into the bathroom at one point and leaving a deflated Busch alone at the bar with his phone. It’s not the evening’s strongest moment and it glaringly illustrates the pitfalls of improv, which is in itself like a blind date – when it works, it can be exciting, new and unexpected; when it doesn’t, it can be dreary, desperate and awkward -- as it sometimes was the night in question.

Thankfully a karaoke machine provides a convenient reset and both Novakovic and Busch partook, with him singing a less than thunderous rendition of Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” and her courageously undertaking “Eternal Flame” by The Bangles in a singing voice that makes a compelling argument for outlawing music of any kind.

Before she began the project in early 2013 in Australia, Novakovic, who has been acting since childhood, said she had little experience with improv. After a year of doing the show off and on with the likes of Jason AlexanderJustin Kirk and Jeremy Sisto, she still seems a bit new to the process. Her remoteness in the early part of the evening left much of the heavy lifting to Busch. And her abrupt change to an extroverted persona seemed spurred more by director Rodgers’ text messages than by bartender Margaux Susi’s repeated rounds.

While Novakovic labored to find a dramatic core to the scene, Busch kept it light. With a self-deprecating neurotic style, he consistently provided the evening’s funniest lines. But by the time the date was over, the audience knew these two wouldn’t be going home together. In fact, when it came time to take a bow, Busch was nowhere to be seen.

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There’s every reason to expect that next Wednesday, The Blind Date Project might be sensational. Novakovic is a brave young actor most recently seen as a high-end hooker with a thing for Greg Kinnear on TV’s now-canceled Rake. It takes a lot of guts to stand in a bar full of strangers and scratch an evening of entertainment out of a few texts on a smart phone. There are no guarantees with a show like this but it’s easy to see how it might sometimes be terrific. And if it’s not, look on the bright side – no matter how bad it gets, you’re never more than a few steps away from the bar.

Venue: The Three Clubs, Hollywood (open ended)

Cast: Bojana Novakovic, Margaux Susi and guest (Adam Busch)

Director: Scott Rodgers

Lighting Design & Sound Design: Brandon McCulloch

Producers: Andrew Carlberg

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