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You can’t hurry love

Haneefah Wood dishes girl talk and real talk in ‘Bad Dates’

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
You can’t hurry love
Haneefah Wood stars in Huntington Theatre Company’s production of “Bad Dates.” (Photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Huntington Theatre Company’s “Bad Dates” begins with shoes. Hundreds of pairs of shoes stacked in single mother Haley Walker’s bedroom. The restaurant manager is finally ready to get back into the dating scene, and that can’t be done without the perfect pair of pumps. As she goes through dates and outfits, Walker, played to exuberant perfection by Haneefah Wood, reports back to the audience in the classic style of a gal-pal debrief.

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During an interview with the Banner, Wood confesses that her favorite on-set shoes are never actually worn by her character. They’re a pair of Harry Potter-themed Sam Edelman pumps. She plans to buy them after the show closes.

“Bad Dates” has all the fun of a romantic comedy, including the wardrobe, the humor and the relatability, with just the right dose of serious edge. “It’s really cool to go on this journey with the audience,” says Wood. “It’s not just about the shoes and the clothes and the bad dates. It’s more complex.”

Far beyond just a humorous retelling of insufferable dinners, “Bad Dates” is an exploration of selfhood. Through hard work and persistence, Walker has built a life for herself and her daughter. She’s become comfortable with herself. Finally, when all else is settled, she is turning her attention to a romantic partner. Wood says she sees herself in Walker in terms of their work ethic and devotion to their loved ones.

Wood knew the one-woman show would be a challenge from the start. The 90-minute, no-intermission performance features rapid-fire lines from Walker the whole time. The script has the cadence of a woman venting to her friends about her latest date, and that’s exactly what Walker does.

This is Wood’s first solo show, though you’d never know it. Director Jessica Stone reached out to her after their work on “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at the Huntington. Wood has previously appeared on Broadway in “Rent,” “Avenue Q” and “Brooklyn.”

The show is universal to those venturing into the dating world, but Wood says she has enjoyed representing her African American heritage on stage. It’s not a primary plot point, but there are subtle celebrations of black womanhood throughout, from Walker’s pre-date moisturizing rituals to the artwork in her room. “I love that I’m a black woman in this show,” she says.

“Bad Dates” runs at the Huntington Avenue Theatre through Feb. 25.