Courtship. College students find themselves in perpetual courtship mode from the moment they step foot on campus. The girl in your calculus class, the guy at the gym, your unbelievably attractive professor – flirting is everywhere on campus. But did you ever really stop and think about using the Internet for your mating needs? Chances are your soul mate is behind a computer right now, typing away aimlessly while you sit there reading this. Unsure of where to begin? The Downstairs Cabaret has the perfect answer for you.

Opened in 1983, the Downstairs Cabaret caters to those who just need a little drama, comedy and a kick-back-and-enjoy-the-show good time. It is known to many as one of Rochester’s hidden secrets and is held dear to the hearts of many.

Last week, the Downstairs Cabaret kicked off its newest production playing right in downtown Rochester – “Real Time.”

“Real Time,” which has already proven itself to be a massive success during the 2006 Toronto Fringe Festival with it’s numerous wins, introduces spectacular Canadian actors, Caitlin Howden and Dan Jeannotte. And ladies and gentlemen, that is all; only two actors for the whole show. However, there are at least 11 different characters throughout the performance. Both Howden and Jeannotte take multi-characterizing to a whole new dimension that truly takes your mind in for a wild ride.

The Downstairs Cabaret includes the tagline, “If you liked ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ you’ll love ‘Real Time’!” The performance is the winner of three awards at the Toronto Fringe Festival, including outstanding production, performances and direction. And rightfully so.

One important thing to note is that during the entire performance, there are only the two actors on stage at all time. From the beginning when the two main protagonists, Billy and Jesse, are introduced, one starts seeing the stark differences between the two. Billy, played by Jeannotte, is a nerdy, 20-something computer-game programmer living at home with his over-zealous, protective British mother, Mum, played by Howden. Jesse, short for Jessica, and also played by Howden, is an ex-convict living at her grandpa’s house, also played by Jeannotte.

The cleverly scripted story hooks us from the minute Billy and Jesse converse online and began the art of Internet dating. Soon enough, they arrange an awkward first encounter which, with much of Billy’s persistence, leads to a full-fledged relationship. The actors then immediately transition into other dynamic characters that play a pivotal role in their relationship.

Needless to say, for the remainder of the hour-long play (with no intermission), the two actors go in and out of different characters. This calls for further explanation. Jeannotte, in addition to his role as Billy, also plays the roles of Grandpa, Vic, frat boy, cop and Goblin King, while Howden, in addition to Jesse, also plays the roles of Mum, Cindy, Rob, the news reporter and a hero in a computer game. It may sound complicated in print, however, both Howden and Jeannotte do such a fantastic job with each individual character it’s hard to believe how seamlessly they both make transitions.

The performance had me laughing uncontrollably from drunken karaoke to the witty banter between Billy and Mum. Anyone can find a character to relate to; on that can open your heart.

UR students can obtain fantastic discounts during most performances, except on Saturday evening, and this one is not to be missed.

“Real Time” will only be in Rochester until December 2 and will not be extended, so grab some friends, go out to dinner and catch one of the funniest shows in Rochester right now. You’ll undoubtedly find yourself saying, “LOL times a million.”

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