Theater Review: A Delicious Treat, Not To Be Missed, At Theatre For The Arts

BROOKFIELD — I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, by Joe Dipietro and Jimmy Roberts, ran for over 5,000 performances off Broadway, making it the second longest running show there ever. After seeing the version currently on stage at The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, I could only wish that they could keep it going at least until New Year’s. It is that good a production, of a hilarious, rollicking, ultimately touching examination of human relationships.

The format of the play consists of two acts, each divided into ten skits whose titles are flashed on the curtain screening the small orchestra, and which involve the four member company taking on a wide variety of roles.

Beginning with the opening Cantata, in which the First Man, having been newly created, asks the First Woman if she’s busy tonight, to which she says something along the lines of “I have to check — I may have a date with another man,” to which he replies “There are no other men,” the characters go through the painful intricacies of dating, hooking up, pondering commitment, marriage, children, divorce, and finally old age.

It deals with the baggage people carry, the anxieties they struggle with, and ultimately their capacity for hope, all done with huge doses of droll comedy as well as familiarly recognizable human situations: “Men Who Talk and the Women Who Pretend They’re Listening” features two couples on blind dates in the same restaurant. While the men drone on interminably about their pet subjects — golf and aeronautical engineering — the women, who have been pretending to be fascinated, finally stand up and do a soft shoe number about “The Single Man Drought.”

In “A Stud and a Babe,” two socially awkward and self-conscious people fantasize about how different their life would be if only they were more sexually attractive, until suddenly they break through the barriers of their shyness and get suddenly hot.

“Scared Straight” is a self-help story set in a maximum security prison, where a middle aged serial killer in a jumpsuit warns an audience of commitment-shy singles of what it is like to spend the rest of your life without a partner, thereby terrifying them into immediately proposing marriage.

The sets for this show are bare stage minimalist, but in “The Family That Drives Together,” the players create the illusion of a minivan, just by rolling about in unison on a quartet of office chairs.  As they sing “The Highway of Love,” they morph into the sort of dysfunctional family that is like an amalgam of Archie Bunker, The Simpsons and Married With Children.

One skit is anomalous to the others, and thus all the more powerful for it. In “The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz,” performed with her back to the audience (while her face is shown on the video screen), a middle-aged woman whose husband left her on his 40th birthday is supposed to be making a video for a match-making service. Instead, she pours her heart out in a devastating portrait of pain and humiliation.

Finally, in “Funerals are for Dating,” an elderly widower attempts a pick up of a stranger at the wake of someone neither of them knew. As they exchange revelations of their ailments, failings and persnickety habits, they eventually decide it might be possible after all.

There wasn’t a single off note or boring segment in the production. Director Erik E. Tonner has done a beautiful job of handling his cast, using sight gags, body language and perfect timing to create a wonderful piece of entertainment. Of course this was made possible by the hugely talented cast.

Frank Beaudry, Shawn Brown, Rebecca Pokorski and Carey Van Hollen are extremely gifted actors who also happen to have terrific singing voices. Whether it is the drolly mobile face of Beaudry as he persists in watching the last interminable thirty two seconds of a football game on television, or Van Hollen rendering a Patsy Cline-like performance of “Always a Bridesmaid (but never a bride)” or Pokorski dishing it out to her son for announcing that he and his girlfriend are breaking up, or Shawn being horrified at the change in his old friends after they became parents, this group is really, really good.

Finally, there was the pleasure of Gina Tonner’s costuming, which enabled the actors to reveal such different personalities, just by changing their outfits, which they did for each of the twenty segments of the show.

I  Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a delicious treat, not to be missed. There’s a bit of simulated sex, and some school bus language, so you might be embarrassed to take your young children with you, but if you’re over 15 and under 112, I’d say go for it!

(Performances continue Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday afternoons, until November 30. Tickets are $15.

Contact TBTA at 203-775-0023 or BrookfieldTheatre.org for tickets and additional information.)

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