If you timed it for just the right moment, a flattering selfie wouldn’t be impossible. In the preshow lighting cycle at “#DateMe: An OkCupid Experiment,” a fuchsia glow does occasionally roll around.
But the photo that this interactive show prods you to take would be going on its app, which if you’re being a good sport you’ve just downloaded. The picture is Step 2 in setting up your dating profile — the point at which, though of course I stayed, I also chickened out.
Audience participation is a consensual activity, and “#DateMe” was looking very not my type.
Post-mortem: The two hours we spent together at the Westside Theater didn’t get much better from there. We don’t have remotely the same sense of humor.
Created by Robyn Lynne Norris and written by Ms. Norris, Bob Ladewig and Frank Caeti, “#DateMe” is based on an experiment by Ms. Norris and Mr. Ladewig — which the show streamlines into “the true story of how one woman fell, kicking and screaming, into the world of online dating.”
Like Ms. Norris, Robyn (Kaitlyn Black) is a comedian. Single, living in Los Angeles and missing her best friend, Mike (or, as she puts it — cliché alert — “my gay best friend, Mike”), she concedes that she needs to do something about finding love. Skittish about following everyone else online, she creates a few dozen ridiculous fake profiles, female and male, on the dating site OkCupid. It’s her way of feeling things out without risking actual romance.
As concepts go, it’s promising, and somewhere beneath the frenetic surface of “#DateMe” (musical numbers! verbatim online chatter! onstage matchmaking of audience members!) beats a yearning heart. But this overlong show, whose intermission seems to exist principally so that the crowd can refuel at the bar, rarely aims higher in its joke-making than the lowest common denominator.
That online chatter? There’s a lot of it, and it gets tired fast, despite a company of talented actors I hope to be seeing in smarter work soon. In addition to Ms. Black, there’s an ensemble of five that does a lot of doubling — as a team of white-jacketed scientists and assorted online daters — as well as some reasonably clever improv.
The standouts are Liz Wisan, whose groundedness provides welcome ballast, and Eric Lockley, who brings an essential sweetness to Robyn’s would-be online suitor (user name: MathClubHistorian82). In other guises, Mr. Lockley manages the neat trick of uttering some crude and creepy come-on lines without poisoning the show’s joviality.
The fundamental problem of “#DateMe” lies in the material, not the production, directed and choreographed by the Broadway choreographer Lorin Latarro (“Waitress”) on a set (by David L. Arsenault) with no shortage of video screens. (The plentiful projections are by Sam Hains, who is also credited as “interconnectivity designer”).
The aggressiveness of the banal comedy overwhelms the show’s emotional core, about a woman who longs for contact but isolates herself for a reason. And when at last it gives in to actual feeling, the shift is unredeeming.
Like a loud date who has blathered on all evening, it has long since made the case that we’re not meant to be.
#DateMe: An OkCupid Experiment
Through Oct. 13 at Westside Theater, Manhattan; 212-239-6200, datemeshow.com. Running time: 2 hours.