Have you ever been set up on a really bad blind date? Janine Squillari almost was, but a pre-date phone call spared her an awful night out. Little did she know just how much that phone call would change her life.
She was doing accounting work in New York City for some clients who thought she would be a great match for their friend. They passed her name on to the guy who called one day at seven in the morning. She was caught a bit off guard at the early call. Janine told him that she was just about to go do Tai Chi in the park with a friend. Here's how she remembers the conversation:"Oh yeah, go and kick a tree. So, are you a Vegan?" he asked.
"No, no I eat meat," she replied.
"Well, you know what works for you. Whatever floats your bowel movement! You know what I'm trying to say... So, I hear you look like Sarah Michelle -"
"Sarah Jessica Parker" she interrupted.
"Oh yeah, so you're like six feet tall?"
"No, I'm five-seven. You know she's like five foot four?"
"Oh yeah, that tv is deceiving..."
The conversation just started to get weirder and weirder. When she got off the phone she wondered, "Why do I keep getting these crazy people coming into my life?" She then sat down and started writing out the conversation, which became part of the basis behind her play entitled "I Need A Guy Who Blinks."
The play just finished up a run at the Paradise Theater (64 E. Fourth Street) in New York City. It's a one-woman show dealing with Janine's personal relationships and how she works through her problems with the aid of a boxing dummy. Hence the title.
The play starts out with Janine at a party in which she's being grilled by people about still being single. Questions fly out at her from all parts of the room, bouncing around like a pinball machine.
"Where are you from? Are you married? You're not married? Do you have a boyfriend? You don't have a boyfriend, well why don't you want a boyfriend? You're pretty, have you ever been married? Engaged? Proposed to? Nobody's ever wanted to marry you ever? Well don't you want to have children? Ms. Squillari, do you like men?"
At this point she screams out, "There's nothing wrong with me!" and so begins her search for Mr. Right in New York City.
"The first part of my show is funny, the last half-hour is kind of confrontational," said Squillari. "She questions herself. Like maybe if I did this, maybe if I did that... Maybe if I had a bigger apartment, maybe if I had bigger boobs, maybe I have to have more stuff, maybe I didn't buy him enough stuff. There's a whole questioning leading to this breakdown where she doesn't want to be alone. She says, 'God just take me. If I have to be here alone, I don't want to do it.' But then within that breakdown she realizes that she's not alone and that she has a lot of support around her. She's just given too many pieces of herself away and she takes them back and then stands for herself."
Squillari grew up in the Monmouth Beach area and briefly attended Monmouth University. She moved to New York City and got a degree in accounting. While in school, she started taking acting lessons and found that she really enjoying acting. Up until that point in time, she didn't think about acting because she couldn't see it as a feasible career since no one she knew had done it.
This was the third time the play has been staged this year. The play made its debut at the Stampede Theatre Festival this past January. The show sold 60 tickets the first night and 70 for the second and final night. The Trilogy Theatre (where the festival was held) even invited her back for three weeks of three performances per week. Squillari is hoping to find another theatre to pick it up and continue the run. The play's message is universal enough that she thinks it can work anywhere.
"Even though the guys may be very quirky, usually people will say they can relate in some ways to the characters," she explained. "They didn't date the same guys, but similar issues came up."
Ironically, a guy that Squillari dated who helped form one of the characters came to the show and didn't recognize himself. And she found out the hard way that it's a little too difficult to be dating someone while this play is running.
"It's ok being single," she concludes. "Mistakes and all that. We all do it and there's nothing wrong with it. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you."
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.