The approach of Valentine’s Day always brings a tidal wave of romantic sentiment with theater, music, cinema, art, and literature playing along, but it is often very difficult to find vital, entertaining works in the vast heap of contrived, saccharine waste. Mercifully, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change cuts through the mountain of seasonal schlock and delivers a hilarious, bittersweet, and refreshingly honest look at love and relationships.
Playing now at Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia, MD, I Love You follows four talented performers on a musical journey through various vignettes of dating and married life. Joe DiPietro’s (Memphis ) witty script and lyrics get down to the real meat of relationships, glorifying such awkward, intimate, and painful moments as bad first dates, meeting the parents, uncomfortable bedroom encounters, and being dragged to a dreaded “chick flick”. The show doesn’t bother with idealized, stock characters or flowery speech; rather,the 1996 revuew presents a parade of quirky, flawed, and relateable people.
It’s no small task for four performers to keep an audience entertained for an hour and a half and the small cast delivers admirably, each cast member getting multiple roles to strut their stuff. The cast boasts solid comedy chops and pleasing vocals, as well as impressive versatility and consistency. The four never let their energy flag as they fly through an endless succession of personalities and costume changes. Shawn Kettering and Janine Sunday both shine in “The Marriage Tango”, bringing hearty laughs with their portrayal of a run-down couple trying to squeeze some romance back into their daily life. With her beautiful soprano straight out of a Disney movie, Debra Buonaccorsi is enthralling in “I Will Be Loved Tonight”, as she expresses sweet relief at finally finding someone special.
David James gives my favorite performance, distinguishing himself with his manic energy and dedication to the smallest nuances of each character. His scenes as a “relationship lawyer”, baby-talking father, and hard-boiled inmate had me crying with laughter. His pleasing, expressive vocals only add to an already impressive display.
This isn’t the most upscale show in terms of scenery and effects, largely due to the constraints of the in-the-round dinner theater setting. The presentation is minimal but sufficient for the cabaret atmosphere of the production. Still, the one thing that’s never in doubt is the caliber of the actors or the material.
Minimal production values and a few flat notes aside, I Love You delivers high-quality performances and undeniable entertainment. Whether you’re searching for an ideal date spot or just looking for a laugh to cut through the Valentine’s Day schmaltz, I highly recommend you head to Toby’s in Columbia and feel the love.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change
Book and Lyrics by Joe DiPietro
Music by Jimmy Roberts
Directed by Shawn Kettering
Produced by Toby’s Dinner Theatre
Reviewed by Ben Demers
This show runs thru Feb 28, 2010
For Details, Directions and Tickets, click here.