'Love Me, Tinder'

The cast of "Love Me, Tinder," pictured left to right: Londen Shannon, Ashley Stein, Jessica Kent, Mike Schiff, Mal Marcus (May 28, 2014)

Tinder, the mobile dating app that brings unlimited booty call possibilities to your phone, has done wonders for the world of hookups. It's the ultimate in immediate gratification—swipe right to attempt to connect; swipe left to reject—designed to keep singles coming back to the candy store for more. It's efficient, it's fun and—since you have control over who can message you and Tinder accounts are connected to users' Facebook pages—it's relatively safe. So what could possibly go wrong?

That's the question that Public House Theatre founder and "Bye Bye Liver" creator Byron Hatfield—who got married in 2013—asked himself when he and his wife noticed "an incredible change in the dating pattern of the large number of actors, servers, bartenders and other hook-up artists at our space," he said. "After a series of frenzied swipes and texts, they would disappear for sudden dates or meet up for drinks with people no one had even heard of," Hatfield said. "Sometimes there was a second date. Sometimes they were back before I could even ask where they went. Sometimes they disappeared for two days and came back smiling like the cat that stole the canary—and then probably had sex with it."

He was fascinated. "And by 'fascinated,' I mostly mean confused and frightened," said Hatfield. "Watching my friends and employees try to figure out who was a [spam-bot], catfish or real person—and what they each wanted—was hilarious." So he set about writing a show. But rather than focus on obvious potential pitfalls, Hatfield looked at the purpose behind the app itself and asked: What could happen if a technology glitch caused the wildly popular app to accidentally match up people who'd make good life partners rather than just good casual sex partners, causing everyone to abandon the site and throw its business into a nosedive? The result is "Love Me, Tinder," a comedic play in which a cast of five explores that question. We checked in with them to find out more about their roles in the show and adventures in dating, Tinder-related and otherwise.

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'Love Me, Tinder'

Go: 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday through June 28 at The Public House Theatre, 3914 N. Clark St.

Tickets: $15. 800-650-6449; pubhousetheatre.com

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Ashley Stein

Age: 30

Her role: "Jen is a single 20-something girl who is not very good at meeting guys in bars, so she goes on Tinder with the help of her roommate. Though she is sometimes awkward, she has a big heart and is genuinely looking to meet Mr. Right."

Awkward dating story: "I was asked, 'If you had to choose, what way would you like to die?' You have to take in the good with the bad when it comes to online dating."

She's seen it happen: "Friends' parents creating profiles for them on eHarmony because they were worried they weren't 'dating enough.'"

 

Mal Marcus

Age: 23

Her role: "I play Linda, Jen's promiscuous but also endearing roommate. Linda works for Tinder and toys with all her 'matches' until she realizes that Tinder may not be what it's cracked up to be. Oh, and I also play male genitalia ... I leave the rest up to imagination."

Real-life success story: "I actually started using Tinder about a year ago and I thought it was just a silly app to use when I was bored. Then I met an amazing guy and we've been dating for almost a year. But if our friends and family ask, we met at Starbucks when he spilled my drink and offered to buy me a new one—guess which one of us came up with that idea."

Real-life scary story: "I met one other guy in person on Tinder before meeting my boyfriend. Essentially, it was the worst date of my life ... he was a lot shorter than I pictured and he followed me back to my friend's apartment, uninvited, after we went out and would not leave when I asked him to. I ended up getting one of my guy friends to come to the rescue and never talked to this creep again. But thank God I still gave Tinder another chance!"

 

Londen Shannon

Age: 19

Role: "My character is Stephen. He recently broke up with his girlfriend and he's trying to find love now through Tinder, but it doesn't last long because [his] new friend Cupid gets in the way."

Awkward dating moment: "Well. Apparently the 'Tindersphere' gets messed up sometimes and it causes people to match with the wrong people, and I just so happen to have one of my best friends that's a girl in all my recent Facebook profile pictures. So there's been a few times when girls have messaged me like, 'You're the hot girl on the left, right?' and it's always super-awkward because I'm not. Also, my friend has no idea that this is happening."

Online dating confession: "There's been a few times when I've seen professors and teacher's assistants on Tinder and sometimes I swipe right just to see if they will, too."

 

Mike Schiff

Age: 24

Role: "I play Cupid, who is going through some rough times in his life and just wants to help Stephen find love so he can go back to being a cute baby god. Just a god who wants to do his job—is that so wrong? I also play Gary, a Tinder scientist."

Awkward dating story: "I once went out with a girl who chose a baby squirrel over hanging out with me. ... She kept taking pics and sending them to me, and they were of her cuddling with this baby squirrel. I will forever be second fiddle to baby rodents and I'm just going to have to accept it."

Online dating confession: "I just made my roommate get OK Cupid. Some guy was talking to her; she got uninterested, so I just started responding to his messages to her. Did that turn him off? Absolutely not. Either I'm a very good woman or he's an idiot. Or both."

 

Jessica Kent

Age: 31

Her role: "I play Esmeralda, the [fictional] CEO of Tinder. I often joke about being a complete cynic when it comes to love and relationships, but girlfriend's got some issues."

Awkward dating story: "Someone saw a friend of mine on Tinder and then wrote a blog post [with her picture] in attempts to track her down. It sounds really sweet and Cusackian in theory, but it projected a lot of assumptions as to who she was as a person—and in a public forum."

Online dating confession: "The idea of catfishing is what keeps me minimally interested in online dating/dating apps for like three days until I get nervous that something similar will happen to me and remove myself from the listings."

Julia Borcherts is a RedEye special contributor. redeye@tribune.com | @redeyechicago