Tagged and It's Complicated looks at online dating
Monumental technological shifts and the rough economic terrain have landed young 20-somethings (Generation Y, The Millennials, The Echo Boom — there are no shortage of labels) in a challenging phase of "emerging adulthood" after post-secondary aspirations. This new reality has provided endless fodder for cultural theorists, commentators, and voices from the demographic, Lena Dunham possibly chief among them.
Out of Reach Theatre's Tagged and It's Complicated is a new musical that fits into this discussion, focusing specifically on how young people use the internet to make connections and forge long term relationships. The musical is cute and quirky, featuring a number of strongly composed songs. The narrative could benefit from another character or setting to take the plot further, but the fledgling show has a promising heart.
Tim (Matty Burns) is unemployed and has moved back home with his parents after graduating from university. He has a strong sense of humour, but has never experienced a real romantic relationship. With his options limited, he turns to the internet to try and make a connection.
Katherine (Ruth Goodwin), the soon-to-be object of Tim's affection, is an endearing arts and lit nerd who spends time with her cat and enjoys drinking red wine from the bottle. She considers the world from inside her Snuggie in a lonely condo (think CityPlace).
After introductions to both characters and an overview of their past dating history, the two are tempted into an online dating site that promises to match them with their most compatible partner. The website's algorithm pairs them together, citing their enjoyment of "taking off socks," and the online dalliance (complete with initial IM pitfalls) begins.
The songs, written and composed by co-collaborators Burns and Ben Wright, are the strongest component of the show. The diverse selection of genres — jazz, pop, bluegrass, funk — injects variety into the scenes. The stand out numbers are "About Me" and "Lady Why," which give the actors an opportunity to showcase their range. The songs go a long way in telling us more about each character.
The plot is burdened by sticking to the bedrooms throughout. It is here, and only here, where each character delivers their heartfelt thoughts. After an hour spent in each space, it starts to feel claustrophobic. Building on the potential in the songs, it would be helpful to introduce new characters and locales in future versions of the script. There are only so many moves director Dana Kaluzny can make in such limited space.
Burns and Goodwin are charming as the online daters. What may seem like an unlikely pairing on the surface feels more right as the play progresses. The nine-piece band is fun to watch; they lend an electricity to the space.
As a musical about online dating in contemporary times, the songs of Tagged and It's Complicated are where the real potential lies. Shaping the material around them is the challenge for the musical's next incarnation.
Tagged and It's Complicated, written by Matty Burns and Ben Wright and directed by Dana Kaluzny, runs at the Palmerston Theatre until December 1.
Photo by David Poon