Updated: Apr 28
A Celebration of the Mating Game!
Within five minutes of this show, the performers are all stripped down to their underwear as the opening number shows each of them getting ready for a first date.
Yes, it’s 1996’s Off-Broadway hit, “I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change,” now playing at Laguna Playhouse through May 8th, and still standing as the second longest running musical revue in Off-Broadway history. With book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music by Jimmy Roberts, “I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change” is a show featuring short vignettes and songs that range from amusing to heartfelt. Four actors portray scores of different characters as they navigate the highs and lows of most all types of romantic relationships.
Audiences will be taken on a journey through painfully awkward Starbucks meets, pre-wedding jitters, parenthood, becoming a widow, and everything in between. The first act deals mostly with the catatonically insecure world of dating, leading up to marriage, and the second act focuses on the various aftermaths of marriage.
The main theme of the story, however, as the title suggests, is the irony of love, which is obvious. With 20 different peals-of-laughter-inducing scenes, the show is a wild ride that people of all backgrounds will relate to.
The show stars an incredible group of savvy, well-seasoned actors that also have a natural flair for satire and humor: John Adkison (Man 1; Natl Tour: “Elf: The Musical”), MaryAnn DiPietro (Woman 1; Natl Tour: “An Irish Christmas”), Danny Crowe (Man 2; “The Bridges of Madison County”) and Alison Nusbaum (Woman 2; Natl Tour: “Hairspray”).
Segueing from monk’s attire to contemporary date-wear, the full cast launches into the well-traveled rituals and pitfalls of the first date (“Cantata for a First Date”). Later, John Adkison and MaryAnn DiPietro are wonderfully loony as two monumentally inhibited and introverted losers who fantasize about what it would be like to be “A Stud and a Babe.”
Alison Nusbaum then joins Ms. DiPietro in an acidically scornful duet bemoaning the dearth of eligible men (“Single Man Drought”). Another highlight is the rhythm ‘n’ blues-tinged, “Hey There, Single Guy/Gal,” featuring Ms. Nusbaum and Danny Crowe as an older couple who chide their son and his longtime girlfriend on their lack of commitment.
A good deal of the material remains timeless in its easygoing look at the American mating game and marriage: Some macho guys who are dragged reluctantly to sentimental films by their girlfriends no doubt still dissolve into tears. Women who are happy to be treated to dinner probably keep pretending to be enthralled by their date’s dull chat about jobs and sports. Doting parents of infants still unwittingly regress into baby talk while boring their friends with endless photos of their progeny (“Wait! I’ve got sonograms!”).
Some of the more offbeat segments are “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” which offers a commercial by the law firm Jacoby & Meyers & Masters & Johnson that promises couples better sex through contractual agreements. And a spoof of a “scared straight” prison encounter, where Danny Crowe is ever effective as a marriage-deprived convict who literally terrorizes singles Mr. Adkison and Ms. DiPietro into committing to matrimony.
Early in the first act, Mr. Crowe is pretty hysterical in the song "Tear Jerk," which explores the concept of a man dragged to a "chick flick," and then, later, in act two, he wins laughs as an all-consuming new father in "The Baby Song." Soon after, Mr. Adkison also scores as a husband stuck holding his wife's bags at the mall while she shops for shoes in the amusing number called "Waiting."
We have Danny Crowe as the he-man who weeps at mushy movies and as a sex-deprived father eagerly anticipating a date night with his wife. Later Alison Nusbaum joins with Mr. Crowe in a touching scene portraying an older couple who meet and gingerly enjoy a little hookup in a funeral parlor (“I Can Live With That”). And MaryAnn DiPietro becomes winningly heartfelt as a woman quietly yearning for intimacy in the song “I Will Be Loved Tonight.”
Not to be outdone, Alison Nusbaum all but stops the show at the beginning of act two in the solo "Always Be a Bridesmaid," about a woman who never quite gets to the altar and, instead, has to wear a particularly hideous bridesmaid's dress. Early on in the show, this actress also gets to share a funky duet with her co-star MaryAnn DiPietro, in which the women lament about the "Single Man Drought." Mr. Crowe is hilarious as a new father who cannot stop speaking in baby talk (“The Baby Song”). Also praiseworthy are Mr. Adkison and Ms. Nusbaum as two bone-weary parents who finally manage to find time for sex (“Marriage Tango”).
With a lot of laughs, and a lot of empathizing, the real trump card of “I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change” is its ability to reduce an audience to laughter and hysterics throughout, which was certainly the case at the performance I attended, with nearly every song and comedy skit hitting the bull's eye. Adding to the pleasures of the show are Paula Hammons Sloan’s imaginative staging (including a riotous car scene called "On the Highway of Love"), the splendid harmonies when all four actors sing together, and the delightful musical accompaniment by a chamber orchestra consisting of a single violin (Julia Hoffman) and a bass (Grant Alexander Brown), led by Musical Director Ricky Pope.
With a minimal setting, mostly consisting of a small step riser, neon lights, a few tables and chairs and an old, cushy leather club chair on a sliding platform, The Laguna Playhouse production, which is smoothly directed and choreographed by Paula Hammons Sloan, neatly incorporates incidental visuals to lend subliminal impressions of contemporary life. Aiding immensely to that effort are the scenic designs of Chris Strangfeld, the sound expertise of Ian Scot and the lighting designs of Clifford Spulock, which provide a perfect environment for this journey into the needy souls who keep “endlessly clashing into one another.”
Perhaps we should follow their advice, and "find someone you love who's perfect, and then spend the rest of your life trying to change them."
LAGUNA PLAYHOUSE, CELEBRATING 100 YEARS, PRESENTS I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE! Performing April 20th – May 8th; Book & Lyrics JOE DIPIETRO; Music JIMMY ROBERTS; Director/Choreographer PAULA HAMMONS SLOAN; Musical Director/Piano RICKY POPE; Violin JULIA HOFFMAN; Bass GRANT ALEXANDER BROWN; Production Supervisor GAIL ANDERSON; Executive Producing Director ELLEN RICHARD; Stage Manager KELLIAN FRANK; Assistant Stage Manager MICHAELINA MILLER; Scenic Designer CHRIS STRANGELD; Lighting Designer CLIFFORD SPULOCK; Sound Designer IAN SCOT.
WITH: Man 1 JOHN ADKISON; Woman 1 MARYANN DIPIETRO; Man 2 DANNY CROWE; Woman 2 ALISON NUSBAUM.
Laguna Playhouse Continues performances on April 27th, 28th, 29th 30th, May 5th at 7:30PM; April 30th, May 5th at 2PM; May 1st and 8th at 1PM; and May 1st at 5:30PM at 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651; Season Tickets and Box Office: 949.497.ARTS (2787) x 1. Tickets Online at: https://lagunaplayhouse.com/
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report
PHOTO CREDIT: Jason Niedle