‘Personals’ is a musical comedy about the numerous problems and perils of searching for love through personal ads. It follows the whole process, from the reducing yourself to fifteen words, to finding a compatible advert, to the date itself. The play features six characters, all in different situations, some divorced and one even married. These characters are predominantly kept separate, for the most part having independent sketches that don’t intertwine. Intermixed with these are numerous brief sketches from a host of other singles, including a desperate high school teen and several singing about controlling mothers. All of the characters are played by the small cast of six, but the effective use of simplistic costumes means there is hardly ever confusion.
Though funny in themselves, the additional characters interrupt the show rather than enhance it; their presence impedes involvement with the main six characters, making their occasional appeals for empathy from the audience ineffective. This, combined with the separate plot lines of each main character, means that not enough time is spent on each to drum up interest in their character or plot. The performance drags slightly because of this, and forms a two-hour musical sketch show rather than a cohesive musical play.
The sketches and songs vary a lot in both quality and humour. They are often intelligent and witty, but do occasionally just sink into the crude. A highlight is the man learning from a tape the ‘tips of dating’. It’s a whole relationship on a cassette, in easy bite sized lessons. Antony Gibson is superb in this role; thankfully, it is one of the main characters that is returned to. Undermining this high point are uncomfortable jokes about bestiality and transvestite dwarfs, fully complemented with words and actions.
Though there are a few problems with the play itself, the cast is talented. They bring out the comedy of the pieces effectively, and are musically impressive. Philly Lopez frequently outshines the others vocally, but this is due to her proficiency rather than their insufficiency. Altogether, ‘Personals’ combines catchy tunes, a very able cast, moments of brilliant comedy (both from the writing and performance), and makes for an enjoyable enough evening – you just have to, occasionally, wait a little too long between laughs.
Personals, OFS 9th –13th October