Miss Abigail, a highly sought-after relationship expert to the stars, makes a stop at the 14th Street Theatre with her handsome Latino assistant, Paco, to share her views on dating, mating and marriage. In one hour and eighteen minutes, she manages to dole out untold tidbits of (mostly) tried and true advice from the dozens of self-help books stacked around her.
From the moment the audience starts to fill the small, intimate theatre, MISS ABIGAIL'S GUIDE TO DATING, MATING AND MARRIAGE is a fully interactive event. Everyone is handed a hot pink note card and asked to submit a question for Miss A to answer. (Don't worry, if your question isn't chosen, you'll be sent an email response!) Paco walks between tables engaging guests in conversation as well, accepting completed note cards along the way.
A self-described "late bloomer," Miss Abigail took it upon herself to study every relationship book she could get her hands on, starting with "Facts of Life and Love for Teenagers," which is prominently displayed on the end table. We learn that an issue of Star magazine touting the break-up of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston jumpstarted her advice career because she thought she could offer assistance to couples in need of relationship help. Miss A started sharing that advice with friends and before she knew it, celebrities were even asking for her opinions!
Paco is the smartly dressed and incredibly handsome assistant who, unbeknownst to Miss Abigail, has a more than slightly obvious crush on her. He helps by locating any book she references in a matter of seconds, sometimes even before she asks. He also helps by holding the visual aid posters. One of the most enjoyable displays is when Miss Abigail is demonstrating how not to dress. The audience learns that while "muffin tops" are a scrumptious pastry, they are not a welcome site spilling over the top of a waistband and that BBBF stands for Belts are a Butt's Best Friend when it comes to an unfortunate case of "plumber's crack."
If you're worried about forgetting some of the more important tips shared during the evening, fear not! Ushers are armed with take-home wallet cards that they pass out to everyone. I know I'll be keeping my copies of "Ask the looking glass!" and "10 Commandments for Couples" handy just in case I need them.
Laurie Birmingham is superb as Miss Abigail. She has the warm, caring demeanor of a close friend and a witty sense of humor. Her laugh is infectious and she truly has the personality of a relationship advice guru. Paco is played by Gabriel Gutierrez, who also gives a terrific performance. His line delivery is spot on when it comes to one-liners and droll comments. Both actors take advantage of the chance to improvise with the audience, whether singling out random guests seated near the front or while playing a rousing game of "Love, Lust or Stalking."
MISS ABIGAIL'S GUIDE was written by Ken Davenport and Sarah Saltzberg and is based on Abigail Grotke's advice book. Filled with references to current events and topics, the script is also left open to include details and comments about the individual city where the show is playing. The set is simple – comprised of a sofa, a chair, a pair of end tables and stacks and stacks of books. For this tour stop, PlayhouseSquare asked for donations of hardback books from the community in exchange for a discount on tickets. Once the show is over, the books will be donated to a local charity. The books not only helped give character to the set, but it's an example of PlayhouseSquare's ongoing community involvement programs.
Only a few performances remain before Miss Abigail and Paco leave Cleveland and head for the next city on their tour! Shows are at 5pm and 8pm on Saturday, February 11th and at 3pm on Sunday, February 12th. MISS ABIGAIL'S is part of PlayhouseSquare's Smart Seats program. Tickets range from $10 to $35. Purchase tickets online at www.playhousesquare.org or by calling the box office at 216.241.6000. The 14th Street Theatre is an intimate performing space next to the Hanna Theatre in downtown Cleveland.
Photo Credit: Campbell Photos.