Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, July, 2002
Since The Fantasticks has closed its unprecedented 42-year run, I Love You, You’re Prefect, Now Change has assumed the throne as the longest running show currently playing off-Broadway. I understand that couples routinely become engaged on stage (hopefully not during the show itself but between acts or after the curtain has fallen). New York is not the only city to have fallen in love with this slight but winning entertainment, there are long running productions all over the country. And now the Theater Barn has brought the show to our area in a charming and often brilliantly funny production running through August 4.
Director Michael Marotta has assembled a winning cast who play more than 40 different roles in a series of fast-paced skits and songs that purport to be exploring male/female relationships. I say purport because the book by Joe DiPietro is extremely superficial and full of stereotypes. If you are yearning for brilliant insights into the modern human condition, you will not find them in the spoken lines. But there are some delightful moments in DiPietro’s song lyrics, and the able cast manages to plumb the depths of comedy whether or not it is in the script.
It is no wonder that DiPietro fares better lyrically than he does dramatically because he has been set to Jimmy Roberts’ delightful score. I didn’t come away humming any tunes because the numbers are generally brief and there are no reprises, but I bet that a second hearing would get several lines stuck in my head for all eternity.
The first half of the show explores the single life and the heterosexual dating scene. I was glad when it concluded with a wedding and I had hope that the second act would explore real, long-term relationships, which it did but still very superficially. I wish that Marotta had tweaked the script a bit to remove the heavy New York bias. Hands up locals (no second home owners allowed) who can tell me what D’Agastino’s* is? Many lines would have gotten better laughs if they had been given a local twist.
The cast consists of two men – the hilarious, rubber-faced Stephen J. Bolte and the bland but cuddly Robert McCaffrey – and two women – the zesty blonde Casey Connolly and the feisty brunette Debra Pitkin. DiPietro’s script and Marotta’s direction do a good job of giving each actor his or her spotlight scene and song, as well as combining and recombining their talents in fresh and interesting ways.
A real highlight of the show for me was the number On The Highway of Love. Although it takes place during one of the weaker skits, the things Marotta and cast are able to do with four well-oiled office chairs is amazing! Another interesting bit of stage business is the The First Dating Video of Rose Ritz in which Connolly acts into a video camera facing away from the audience and the performance that the audience sees is projected on to a regular household television set.
The biggest requirement for the set of this show is that it stay out of the actor’s way, which Abe Phelps’ set does admirably, but he has also painted it in a lively pastel palette (and I hardly ever consider pastels lively) of basic geometric shapes that subtly comment on the basic, but different, shapes our relationships take. Kyle Harvey has designed a plethora of attractive and malleable costumes, which allow the cast to make lightning quick changes between scenes. No credit is given for hair and make-up, but there is some talented gremlin backstage who assisted the performers in that arena as well.
The night I attended there was a full house (yay!) and lots of laughs. I am slightly puzzled that the whole world seems to have gone ga-ga over such a lightweight piece of theatre, but it is harmless enough and certainly a great way to spend a summer’s evening at the Theater Barn.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change runs through August 4 at The Theater Barn, located on Rt. 20 just west of the town of New Lebanon, NY. . The show runs two hours and fifteen minutes including one intermission. There are bawdy moments and some frank discussion of human sexuality, but it’s all in good fun. Teenagers will get a big kick out of it, but leave the little ones at home. Call the box office at 518-794-8989 for tickets and information.
* D’Agastino’s is a New York City supermarket chain.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 2002