IF YOU GO
What: Joe DiPietro musical about mating, dating, relating
When: Tuesday through Sunday evenings with selected matinées through Dec. 25.
Where: 1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers (in Royal Palm Square)
Cost: $28 to $49
Information: 239-278-4422 or broadwaypalm.com
On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog
FORT MYERS — Playing now in the Off-Broadway Palm, a matchbox-sized space with mismatched seating and cozily intimate views is one of the best productions of "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" you're liable to see. I'm not a fan of the show, but audiences (and you) will love it. Get tickets. If you can.
"I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" uses two men, two women, a brilliant on-stage pianist (William Asher, he of the magic fingers) and dozens of costumes to go from first date to gray hair. Joe DiPietro (he also wrote the librettos for "Memphis" and "All Shook Up") crafts a joke-filled show that grabs for silliness at every turn. Amusing lyrics rhyme all sorts of bizarre combinations; my favorite, "appalling" and "nature's calling!"
To call the show "paper-thin" feels an insult to stationery, but it ran for 12 years and 5,003 performances Off-Broadway. "Love, Perfect, Change" just entertains very well. There is no plot. There is no story. There are no characters. Just two random guys, two random girls and about two dozen skits, songs and goofy setups about love.
Love on a first date. Why bother? Skip to the second date and bring condoms! Bad dates. Bad guys. Boring guys. Bad movies. Chick flicks. Bad parents. They want grandkids and WHY AREN'T YOU MARRIED YET? Phone calls from crushes. I'll bring the wine. Dating. Wedding bells. Babies. Boobs. Kids. Marriage. Marriage is hell. Funerals. Second chances. Second dates. Second lives. We are not alone.
Credit director Paul Bernier and choreographer Amy Marie McCleary for stretching this wisp to the utmost. Bernier, yet again, proves his chops by getting the show's loopy comedic interludes to shine. What I most love about Bernier's effort is that he doesn't pretend the material is something it isn't. The point of the show is to entertain - and he delivers in spades.
His actors give depth to the basic dialogue and put their own "Saturday Night Live"-worthy skills on display with crazy facial expressions and solid timing. McCleary demonstrates why she's one of the best in Southwest Florida; her routines make the four-person show feel larger, more lively and far bigger than the four-person cast might suggest.
These performers shine. And they can sing. Adam Clough brings a natural talent for mimicry and voice acting to the stage. He can pivot from an uber-boring aeronautical engineer bringing a date to tears before the appetizer and an under-sexed, over-excited husband ready to do the "Marriage Tango." Erik Hogan proves equally as funny as an overwrought new dad and an oldster picking up women at funerals.
Caitlin Newman unleashes her vocals like a hurricane. Watch for the terrible, hilarious rap ("Hey There, Single Gal") she and Hogan share where they berate young lovers who decide not to get married. Or there's her ecstatic joy (and McCleary's dancing pizza delivery boys) after a hoped-for crush actually DOES call the next day. Kate Marshall adds charm and sass - especially in the "Always a Bridesmaid" number. Still my favorite lyric: "For Tabitha, I wore taffeta / You should never, people laugh at ya."
Thomas R. Prather's black and white puzzle-piece set plays off the "relationships are confusing" theme; red and pink cutouts herald a move toward love. Jim Conti's costumes (the characters change dozens of times) add a few more giggles between cutesy tennis togs, leopard-print thongs and the tackiest bridesmaid dress you will ever see.
Say no to taffeta! Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. Email me, email@example.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.