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BWW Review: Playhouse's I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE Is . . . Nigh Perfect

During the Holiday Season, theatregoers looking to dodge "fairy dust" and seek for something beyond the shadow of the Ghost of Christmas Future might as well have a Christmas stocking with a hole in it. Occasionally, the "grownups" might find something like the dark and challenging THE SEAFARER, which played to meager audiences a few years back at Circuit; despite an exceptional cast (Tony Isbell, Jim Palmer, et al) and a fine production, this beautiful little play failed to bring in the audiences (it was one of my favorite theatrical experiences). The result is that PETER PAN, A TUNA CHRISTMAS, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, and all their Yuletide ilk pretty much dominate the stages -- and why not? They are delightful experiences, eliciting all the joy and sentimentality one craves as the 25th approaches. However, for those who gag on eggnog, Playhouse on the Square has squeezed out a few performances of I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE, the "slice of life" musical with Book and Lyrics by Joe DiPietro and Music by Jimmy Roberts. Ironically, it's Playhouse's "gift" to those who prefer to leave their Christmas spirit at home.

The musical itself is more or less a series of vignettes exploring the arc of relationships -- all the way from "do I dare?" to ask for a date to engagement to marriage to . . . beyond. Two couples enact these scenarios (and they are charmingly played by Justin Asher, Kim Baker, Lynden Lewis, and Jordan Nichols); at times we are treated to a "twosome," and at other times both couples hold the stage. I am so accustomed to watching these players assay "character" or period roles (Mr. Asher in SUNSET BOULEVARD or CABARET; Ms. Baker in MARY POPPINS; Mr. Nichols in URINETOWN or LES MISERABLES), that it's rather interesting to see them play "normal" characters. It's a nice change of pace, for them and for us; it has something of the effect of slipping on soft houseshoes and sitting back on the sofa. The same might be said of the songs that reflect the various relationships; I particularly like the witty and perceptive lyrics to a number of these (though, truth to tell, none of them will remain with the viewer leaving the theatre). That's not to say, however, that they are a disappointment, particularly as this cast can sing as well as act.

While watching I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE, I thought of the "relationship" skits on the old CAROL BURNETT SHOW, usually featuring the star with Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, and Vicki Lawrence: They have the same kind of wry intimacy and humor (though "amped up" by sexuality and language). The foursome here ease in and out of a variety of characters, and each performer has a special moment in the spotlight -- a poignant turn by Ms. Lewis as a woman making a dating tape, a sweet lament by Ms. Baker as a hideously dressed bridesmaid, a hilarious bit by Mr. Asher as a prisoner bringing a couple together, a touching moment by Mr. Nichols as an aged man assessing his years of married life while his wife is absorbed in the morning paper. I could go on.

Director Dave Landis keeps these moments moving along nicely, and the musical accompaniment by Steven Liening is just about perfect (he plays keyboard, while Ionut Cosarca and Tammy Holt assist on the violin). Caleb Blackwell's costumes look -- appropriately -- like what anyone corresponding to the age portrayed might have in his/her closet. Through December 19.

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From This Author Joseph Baker

I received my Master of Arts Degree in English from Memphis State University and worked as an English instructor at Christian Brothers High School from (read more...)