Ashleigh Harvey’s THE DEAD TINDER SOCIETY, currently onstage at Theatre on the Bay, is a fun theatrical frolic that offers audiences unadulterated laughs within the sitcom scenario – no pathos required.
THE DEAD TINDER SOCIETY, with Sharon Spiegel-Wagner (Jody) and Litha Bam, explores life after a messy divorce when you have forgotten how to date (or even act) in this new world of online human connection, where the boundaries of intimacy are ever shifting.
It is not high art; it isn’t even a new concept (we’ve seen our fair share of plays dealing with online dating over the last few years), but it is a fun comedic frolic about the everyday trivialities of dating after divorce. If your leading lady is a single parent, who clearly needs therapy, but rather opts for Tinder and vino, then laughs that land with a good portion of your audience at general dating-trauma intervals are guaranteed.
Style wise THE DEAD TINDER SOCIETY draws strongly on the chick-flick genre, while it is packaged as a sitcom of a Seinfeld like structure: At various intervals, Jody as our leading lady, suffering a bit of a mental melt-down, wittily engages the audience before stepping back into her life at various interludes to give episodic snap shots of how she navigates relationships with the help of her friend-zoned pal, Ray.
As such, the rhythm of the piece oscillates between high energy, entertaining monologues (when Spiegel-Wagner embraces her inner stand-up) to chilling on the couch scenes with some wine, weed and whining to her friend about the difficulties of moving on from a cheating husband, while raising two kids and trying to have a sliver of a personal life. The stand-up sessions I found very enjoyable with Spiegel-Wagner hitting the mark and finding that fast-paced sweet spot that times laughs beautifully, but the sitcom snap shots were hit and miss for me. At times these slowed down the pace of the play just a tad too much. Spiegel-Wagner is given an opportunity to shine comedically as Jody, but Bam is not given much scope for any real character development as Ray, while also called upon to jump through a number of quick mannerism changes as he steps into various characters featured in the highlight real of Jody’s most regrettable Tinder dates.
Although the play is fun, I can’t say that at certain moments it’s not offensive. The body-shaming of the projected Tinder profiles (lest we forget they’re people) whom Jody and Ray regard as swipe lefters did not sit well with me. Isn’t cyberbullying a big enough part of our reality that we should not lean into it as a running joke in a play? Those laughs felt a bit cheap, especially when there is so much potential and depth to be explored simply by the word play in the title. With a title that sells itself as a quippy take on an iconic movie, The Dead Poet Society, it feels like a missed opportunity if you don’t balance out the fun fluff of the piece with some real moments of growth even when dealing with the trials and tribulations of Tinder dating.
While THE DEAD TINDER SOCIETY at times misses the mark for me personally, I can appreciate that an audience that just wants a fun night out and a quick laugh will find that it does the trick. Sometime this is all one needs for a bit of theatrical escapism – and such escapism absolutely has its place in the scope of entertainment, and should be respected as such.
Ultimately, THE DEAD TINDER SOCIETY does exactly what it promises to do: it gives you a fun night with quick laughs in response to even quicker swipes and dates as two friends find their way out of break-up depression with an ever-growing degree of hope. So if you are up for a theatrical night out that keeps things light, amusing, and boozy then you have until 19 March 2022 to book your tickets through Computicket and head on over to Theatre on the Bay.
The age restriction is PG (colourful language and adult themes) and all Covid protocols are observed.