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2015 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Ambien Date Night’

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From the moment I entered Atlas’ Lab II, I was primed to laugh and have a great time. An overly-friendly brunette demanded my attention and directed me toward my friend who was saving our seats.

As the play began, I immediately fell in love with Connie (played by Katie Maconaughey) and Marianne (played by Amanda Haddock Duchemin). These woman would keep anyone entertained who is trying to make it through the day at a desk job.

Playwright Jessica Erin Bylander introduces us to the lonely world of Connie the insomniac, filled with underwhelming nasally women on TV and anorexic magazine models, and then turns this world on it’s head. Connie picks up an Ambien addiction and her inner diva (CJ) emerges. CJ (also played by Katie Maconaughey) is so alluring that we, the audience, start to fall down the rabbit hole with her. The play takes you through surreal twists leaving you in the delightful unknowing state of what is a dreamworld- and what is real and does it matter.

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Ambien Date Night is a hysterical response to the relentless media telling us to pop pills for everything, fall in love, and power through our day. We think that the answer to the work/life balance is to disconnect from who we really are and reinvent ourselves. We must become sexier, funnier, extroverted women to find love, happiness, and adventure. That must be it.

Maconaughey masters the challenge of playing opposing characters effortlessly switching from one to the other. This skill shines in scenes with her sweet, sensitive love interest, Ty (Bryan Norrington). She embodies the sassy CJ with ease, commanding our attention with her deep, old-timey voice and confident stage presence.

As Connie, Maconaughey’s whole body transforms into a slouching posture, cautiously engaging in dialogue. She was so consumed with the anxious nature of her character that Maconaughey tripped on a line or two, but delivered a remarkable performance overall. The dynamic Haddock Duchemin was on 100% and completely in the moment. A few times, she broke the fourth wall and was either pleased or disappointed in us – sending us all into a sea of laughter.

John Bylander, Terrence Jones, and Joyce Bylander constructed the perfectly inventive and simple set that makes this Fringe show work. This magical set instantly takes us to Connie’s home, a food truck, and to an office. Director Strother Gaines created a rhythm to the play that left you wanting more. Each scene accomplished what it needed to do and then moved on.

Once again, Bylander nailed the witty comebacks and nuances of her characters. She captureD the obsession with perfection and efficiency in Connie that so many DC professionals strive for, i.e. the mid-day stretch breaks and the “yes man” attitude. The impeccable timing and subtlety of facial expressions kept the audience engaged and laughing. Hilarious nods to romantic comedy stereotypes are sprinkled in that you must experience for yourself.

Your next date night awaits you at Ambien Date Night at ATLAS Lab II.

This production is sure to sell out fast so pick up your tickets now!

Running Time: 70 minutes.

Ambien Date Night plays through July 25, 2015 at Atlas Performing Arts Center’s Lab II – 1333 H Street, NE in Washington, DC. For information and to purchase tickets, visit the production’s Capital Fringe page.

RATING: BEST OF THE 2015 CAPITAL FRINGE FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

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