Originally produced off-Broadway in 2010 with no less a cult figure than The Brady Bunch’s Eve Plumb as its star, Ken Davenport and Sarah Saltzberg’s Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage arrives at San Antonio’s Roxie Theatre with all the comic absurdity intact.
It’s actually the perfect show for the space, relying as it does on a playful mood and lots of audience participation. Miss Abigail (Kelli Grant) quotes from a vast collection of books (mostly from the 1940s) to offer hilariously antiquated advice to the audience. Evidently weenie roasts were an important part of the dating scene back then.
She’s frequently interrupted by phone calls from one of her celebrity clients, “Bennifer,” while her lovesick assistant Paco (Domonic Miramontes) pines for her affection.
The show relies on a cooperative and rowdy audience for its comedy, and last Saturday night’s performance had a good crowd. Attendees are frequently called to the stage to awkwardly demonstrate flirting techniques and play games like “Love, Lust or Stalking,” so inhibitions are not allowed. Grant and Miramontes capably handle the scripted portion and are also good at incorporating the curveballs that are thrown their way.
Grant may play the title role, but in many ways it’s Miramontes’s show. While Miss Abigail doles out her questionable advice, Paco is always moving around the stage, setting up props, mugging, and adding his own point of view. And when Miss Abigail brings another man onstage to fill in for him during an absence, he spends the rest of the show glaring angrily at his perceived rival. On Saturday night, the audience member gamely glared back.
Director Jonathan Pennington’s set design is effective and takes full advantage of the 360-degree space. It’s a fun evening at the theater, especially when one considers that the absurd advice from days gone by was once actually taken seriously. And yes – it’s the ideal entertainment for a first date.
Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage plays Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:30 p.m.through November 27 at the Roxie Theatre, 7460 Callaghan Road, #333. Tickets can be obtained online or by calling (210) 360-9180.