Marie is an actor, writer, and carbohydrate enthusiast. She's passionate about streaming t.v. shows online, coffee, Diane Keaton, true crime stories, and Kansas City sports. In her spare time, you can find her hanging out in Lincoln Square, not causing much trouble.
Pictured: Jillian Leff and Bailey Castle. Photo by Zen Orchid Photography.
By Marie Warner
When I read the synopsis for MISSED OPPORTUNITIES, I admit I was a little skeptical. A rom-com that features a girl pretending to be a lesbian in order to get close to a guy sounds regressive and a little gross. But Jillian Leff has crafted a surprisingly nuanced show that explores sexual identity and vulnerability in the classic rom-com format.
Max is a millennial type living in the city with her best friend Adam. She runs into her college crush Nate and is shocked to discover he has assumed she is a lesbian. In an effort to stop Nate’s well-intentioned pressure to rejoin the dating world, Jenna, (an actual lesbian) suggests that she and Max pretend to be a couple so that Max can get close to Nate and remind him how great she is. Obviously, this plot does not go as planned, and Max ultimately has to wrestle with her own identity, self-worth and how those things affect her relationships.
The playwright, Jillian Leff, stars as Max and turns in a solid performance. Thankfully, Leff does not seem to fall into the trap of being stretched too thin as playwright and actor. Her dialogue is filled with pop culture references and catchphrases but feels very natural. It’s refreshing to hear dialogue that sounds the way my friends and I actually speak and not like some bot’s idea of how millennials talk.
Jose Cervantes is endearing as the goofy Nate, and Bailey Castle as Jenna manages to be incredibly confident and vulnerable by turns. Joe Lino is terrific as Adam. He and Leff have wonderful chemistry and their scenes together are great fun to watch.
I love romantic comedies, in spite of how problematic they can be. MISSED OPPORTUNITIES does a great job of channeling the rom-com vibe while also dealing with tricky issues. It doesn’t gloss over the harm Max’s deception does and refreshingly, it also doesn’t give her a tidy little happy ending—straight or gay.
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES runs through February 16. For more information visit thecuckoostheaterproject.com.