By Madeline Schulman
Everything about Date of a Lifetime, the new production at NJ Rep, is funny, delightful and ingenious: the book and lyrics by Carl Kissin, the music by Robert Baumgartner Jr., the piano playing of Daniel Rein, Marlo Hunter’s lively direction, the acting of James Laverdiere (Marvin) and Trisha Rapier (Katie), and even the set by Jessica Parks.
At first, the basement of Symphony Space looks drab, but as the play goes on the audience is transported to Park Slope, Coney Island, the High Line, and many other New York spots.
Katie and Marvin are first seen getting ready separately for their trips to Rot-a-Dating, a speed dating site. After cycling through several briefly glimpsed losers, Katie and Marvin come face to face and are instantly smitten.
Marvin asks to use his four minutes to sketch out what their first date would be like – but why stop at that? He will envision their whole life together. Katie agrees, if she can do the same with her four minutes. For the bulk of the play, Katie and Marvin act and sing and dance out these scenarios, until the bell rings and the time comes to decide whether Marvin, number 33, and Katie, number 16, will pursue a relationship.
The two stories follow similar trajectories. They date, they get close, they marry, they part, and finally reconcile. However, the details diverge, allowing for two completely different, hilarious narratives.
He pictures their first date at a Japanese-Mexican-Greek fusion restaurant, for example, while Katie sees them on the roller coaster at Coney Island.
The clever set up allows for many funny songs. I can’t say which is the funniest, but by the far the sexiest is “Fasten Your Seatbelt, Marvin,” wherein Katie unwraps her wraparound dress for a lively seduction.
The great chemistry between the two attractive actors makes all their comedic and romantic interaction entertaining and believable.
New Jersey humor note: when Katie considers divorcing Marvin, her lawyer advises her to paint him as “Hitler, Pol Pot, and Chris Christie all rolled into one.”
Date of a Lifetime zips along for ninety minutes without an intermission. You will wish this date lasted longer!
NJ Rep is located at 179 Broadway, Long Branch. Date of a Lifetime runs through April 6. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m., and selected Sundays at 7 p.m. For tickets and reservations, call 732-229-3166 or visit njrep.org.