Singled Out

People without partners laugh and cruise at Avail 4.

Avail 4 The 14th Street Theatre, 2037 East 14th Street Through October 7; call 216-241-6000 or tickets may be purchased at the door.
It's a damn shame there isn't a Nobel Prize for Courage in Interpersonal Relationships. If there were, a "single-and-looking" man or woman would win it every time. While many singles are OK with their status, many others are driven to find that one true love, the person whose yin matches their yang, the unique piece that completes the puzzle called Happiness.

One such person is Linda Fredrickson, who has channeled her personal search into a pastiche of comedy and perhaps unintended pathos titled Avail 4. Frequently amusing and sometimes cringe-worthy, the evening doesn't fit any predetermined category. Composed of three parts improv comedy, two parts personal classified ads, and one part group therapy, the whole experience floats in the netherworld between theater and a self-help encounter.

The show is loosely structured around four young performers who deliver scripted comedy bits, interspersed with close to 20 real single people, many well into their middle years, who stand up at their seats and deliver their pitch to any potential partners who might be in the audience. Each of these preselected singles, referred to as "pop-ups" in the show, has been rehearsed by director Jacqi Loewy, so they exhibit a sufficient amount of confidence and never wind up staring mutely at their shoes.

In fact, a few get off some good lines as they declare their desires. Jaya, an aspiring comedian herself, states that "I'm from India, and I'm one in a billion!" The 14th Street Theatre quickly takes on the trappings of a rather boisterous AA meeting ("My name is Dana." "Hi, Dana!!") led by affably entertaining and nonthreatening hosts: Russel Stich, Kellie McIvor, Elizabeth R. Wood, and Woodie Anderson.

The mini-comedy monologues handled by the professionals break no new ground, but show that Fredrickson has a nice feel for a punch line. One bit about the code talk men and women use when dating is spot-on (when a guy asks, "Is something wrong?" and she responds, "No," she really means, "You bet your ass!"). Other riffs cover internet dating, finding the power seat in a bar, and the inequality of pairing up (on the 1-10 desirability scale, a "4" man can date an "8" woman, especially if he has money, but it doesn't work the other way around).

The title -- short for the query "What are you available for?" -- cuts to the core issue and hints at the vulnerability all singles are willing to tolerate in hopes of hooking up with McDreamy. And it ain't easy. One of the pop-ups admitted that he'd lived on three continents so far, was still looking, and was afraid that soon he'd be running out of land masses.

Underneath all the frivolity -- some forced, but most genuine -- is the inescapable flop sweat of people who are trying, one more time, to find someone with whom they can share their lives. The sweet and poignant innocence in that search is something that anyone can admire.

About The Author

Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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