Rust Belt looks anew at ‘Dating’ disasters



Rust Belt Theater Company’s “Dating Sucks” was an instant hit when it premiered last year, so the troupe is bringing it back.

A two-weekend run of the hilarious and risque musical revue opens Friday, and it will include a lot of new material.

Robert Dennick Joki wrote, directs and is in the cast of “Dating Sucks.”

“It was kind of a surprise hit last year, so we decided to make it an annual event,” he said.

The show was born out of the remnants of other musicals penned by Joki, who discovered they have a theme — the humor and pitfalls of modern dating. He decided to cobble them into something new.

“It began with a collection of songs I wrote for other projects, songs that ultimately ended up on the cutting-room floor,” said Joki. “Sometimes good songs get cut not because they aren’t any good, but for continuity purposes, or because the show is too long. What became ‘High School Vampire Boyfriend’ [in ‘Dating Sucks’] was originally going to be a part of ‘Living Dead: The Musical,’ and ‘No Regrets’ was written for ‘When I Knew and How It Saved Me.’”

As the song titles suggest, the humor is witty, topical and totally in line with Joki’s repertoire of original musicals, such as “How The Drag Queen Stole Christmas.”

The rest of the song list in “Dating Sucks” includes titles such as “The Kids Are Not at Home,” “The Most Honest Love Song That You’ll Ever Hear,” “I Kissed a Squirrel,” “Friend Zone,” “Call Me Rapey” and “Monogamy Is for Ugly People.”

Another tenet of Joki musicals is the lampooning of pop culture, and “Dating Sucks” is no different.

“Couples and singles alike will get the jokes,” he said. “There is even a section where cast members read actual quotes from the Missed Connections section of Craigslist.”

Joki is keeping “Dating Sucks” fresh with the addition of a handful of new musical numbers this year, including “Bars and Legs,” “Let It Grow” and “Bonfire,” as well as two short one-act plays, “Serial Monogamy” and “I’m Dating a Monster.”

The cast includes veterans from last year’s production Marisa Zamary, Nicole Zayas, David Cirelli, Kage Coven, Hunter Thomas, Donnette Bishop, Lynn Sabeh and Joki, as well as newcomers Brittney Murphy, Adam S. Davis and Jenn Stofko.

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