Megan Bowers wants you to know that she’s been on some very bad dates.
And who hasn’t?
The lush who weeps into his beer about his ex and then sticks you with the check.
The date who spends the evening, his face aglow in the light from his cellphone, texting other girlfriends.
The guy who announces he only likes blondes — and you’re brunette.
The would-be Romeo who slips the bistro’s silverware into his pockets.
The 30-something Bowers, a veteran of sketch and improv comedy, found that her sense of humor along with improv techniques have helped her navigate her own journey through the rocky terrain of romance. And both her on- and off-stage experience are what makes the actress perfect for Lean Ensemble Theater’s December production of the funny one-woman show “Bad Dates” by Theresa Rebeck.
Bowers plays Haley Walker, a single mom who had pressed the hold button on her romantic life while building a successful restaurant career and raising her daughter, Vera. But now that Vera’s a teenager, Haley has decided to plunge back into the dating minefield. As she obsesses about her wardrobe and worries about how to look sexy but not slutty, she encounters a rogue’s gallery of oddball suitors — among them a weirdo bug guy and a colon-focused suitor.
Meanwhile her work life grows complicated as a thieving busboy and Romanian mobsters who “cook the restaurant’s books” leading to a brush with the law.
Bowers offers her thoughts on both the play and her own experience on bad dates:
Q: Let’s start with the play. What drew you to the role?
A: Last year when LET’s artistic director Blake White approached me about doing “Bad Dates,” I was apprehensive. I’d never done a one-woman show before. This would be a big challenge for me, so I didn’t say yes right away. Then after Christmas while I was packing away ornaments, I came across a copy of the script that a director had given to me nine years earlier. On it, he’d written: “You’re too young for this right now but one day I think you’d be really great in this role.” I took it as a sign that I should do this. Then when Blake told me Peggy Trecker White was onboard to direct, that was all the push I needed.
Q: And your own bad dates?
A: Oh, don’t get me started … . I’ve lived in New York City for 14 years so I’ve definitely had a few.
Q: Did you meet them on dating apps like Tinder or Bumble?
A: I feel very fortunate because I got into a serious relationship right before everyone was on the dating apps. But the one time I did go on a date from an app, I knew from the moment I walked in the door it was going to be a problem. The guy’s profile had shown a trim man in his mid-20s. The dude who greeted me at the bar was easily 15 years older and 45 pounds heavier. “Oh, this is nuts!” I thought. “I’ve just gotten here and already I don’t trust you.” The thing was I was in my 20s at the time and had no objection to dating older guys, but why would a dude lie about his age? So we had a beer and a nice conversation and I said goodnight.
Q: Your worst date?
A: A friend set me up with a freelance photographer he’d just met on a fashion shoot. I get to the restaurant and my blind date is a nondrinking vegan who smokes like a chimney. I eat meat, drink and don’t like smoking, and so that’s a bummer. But we talk and he seems nice. Afterward we go to Central Park, and as we’re walking, he says, “Hey, did you Google me?” Yes, I tell him. “So you found my website?” he says. “Yes, the pictures were gorgeous,” I reply. (They were shots of beautiful models.) Then he goes, “Oh, but did you see my other website?” Other website? It turns out he creates “art” with his own body fluids. At that moment, my dating brain clicks off. So just like in improv, I go with the flow and turn into “a journalist” and ask him every question I can think up. Then, even weirder, he starts telling me about his massive student debt. This is all so insane, I think, don’t throw your debt into this too. “Okay,” I say, “It was really nice to meet you, and maybe I’ll see you again.”
Q: And did you?
A: It’s incredibly easy to avoid people in a city with over 8 1/2 million people. Chances are you’re not going to see them again, and even if you do, you can duck over to the other side of the street.
Q: And now?
A: I met my boyfriend — he’s an attorney and a big comedy fan — in an improv class. So we knew each other a year before we started dating. Even though I didn’t know a ton about him personally, it was easy to start a relationship because I already trusted him. I knew if I got on stage that he would stand behind me and he’d agree with that insane thing I said and justify it. I encourage people to take improv classes. They open you up and make your think differently. And once you learn the improv rule of living with the idea of “yes, and” — in other words to just keep going, just keep going, don’t stop the scene — you’ll find it’s a pretty good way to get through life.
If you go
What: Lean Ensemble Theater’s production of “Bad Dates.”
When: Dec. 12-15 at 7:30 p.m. Matinee: Dec. 16 at 2 p.m.
Where: SoundWaves, 7 Lagoon Road, Hilton Head. Hilton Head Island: Talkbacks following each performance
Tickets: $25 preview night (Dec 12); $40 performances (Dec 13-15); $15 students/active military. Group rates available.
Details: www.leanensemble.org or call 843.715.6676