Dutch Review: When Marianne Met John

Performed as a part of Planet Connections Theatre Festivity on the stage of the Paradise Factory, “Dutch” is an artistic experiment that examines dating rules in the context of real human relationships. A humorous story of two couples, the play reminds us that we do not always fall in love with our type, and that following rules does not guarantee happiness. Serving us the “dating book” flavored with light-hearted humor, the playwright Paul Weissman and the director Fred Backus invite us to rethink our attitude towards dating and appreciate people for who they are instead of trying to fit them into our templates.

When Marianne (Lindsey Carter) and John (Michael Jayson) go out on a first date, they enjoy each other’s company and have fun… until the check comes. John takes his time to pick up the bill, and when he finally does, Marianne offers to split it, and he agrees. Even though the date went well otherwise, Marianne can’t get past the fact that John did not insist on paying and wonders whether she should see him again. As we compare our own experiences to those of the characters, we realize that everyone has his or her own definition of what it means to be treated well.

However, this question is sometimes too hard to answer on one’s own. Like many other people, both Marianne and John value second opinions, so they ask their best friends, Claire (Morgan Zipf-Meister) and Ben (Joseph Esbenshade) for a dating advice.

“Have you ever gone Dutch?” Marianne asks Claire.

“No, but I haven’t seen a Loch Ness monster, either, and I have a feeling that he’s out there somewhere.”

For Marianne, Claire’s opinion is a reality check. She likes John and wants to give him another chance, but she is also afraid of trusting the wrong man, and she needs her friend to assure her otherwise.

On the contrary, Ben’s advice confuses John even more than Marianne’s reaction.

“We’re providers,” Ben says in an orator’s tone. “We don’t have to hunt anymore, but we’re still expected to provide.”

“So I should have paid for the meal?” John asks.


Hence, not only does the friends’ appearance add some spice to the Marianne-John dynamics by creating extra tension, it also allows us to hear both sides of the story. Moreover, we get to see the difference between what the characters think or feel and how they act on a date. There is, of course, some nervousness, but also the fear of opening up to someone unworthy, which forces people to play games and impairs connections.

To highlight this disparity between thoughts and actions, the actors often change their tone of voice, or facial expressions. For instance, when John and Marianne go for a walk after their first dinner, she is not as talkative as she was when they just met. This is how we know that going Dutch does not agree with her even before she addresses the issue verbally.

Later on, we also enjoy watching Miss Carter play drunk. When Marianne shows up uninvited at John’s apartment, her speech is slurred, and she moves slowly, swaying from side to side. At the same time, her intoxicated state allows her to “vomit her dignity,” or tell him how she really feels. This and other scenes are so realistic that audience members can’t help but admit that they have been there too at some point in their lives.

Thus, although “Dutch” is a particular couple’s story, we can easily relate to it because we all go through the same motions when we meet someone new. We often play cool at first and then get attached and grow desperate, afraid to lose the one we love. As we recognize ourselves in the characters, we sympathize with them and get excited, anticipating what happens next. This is the way one feels in the beginning of a new relationship, not knowing how it will develop, but hoping that it will work out for everyone involved.

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