“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” which opened tonight for a three-week run at Actors Cabaret of Eugene, is as sweet a musical as I can recall seeing. The perennial Off-Broadway hit premiered at the Westside Theatre in Hell’s Kitchen in 1996 and then ran more or less forever around the world.
The ACE production, directed by Anthony Krall in his debut as a director, and featuring an ensemble cast of regulars at the little downtown musical theater, is a sharp and good as any show I’ve seen there. And funny. Did I mention funny? As I sit here and write this, my cheeks are still sore from smiling way, way too much for the last two hours. It’s that good.
This is not a traditional well-made play. There are no lasting characters in this show, and no plot. Instead we are treated to a series of short vignettes, which take us from the youthful days of lustful and lonely dating through 20- and 30-something romances and breakups and re-unitings to the full-on penitence of family life to the final confusions and ambiguities of old age.
And we’re all lost at every point along the way. “All the years, we’ve been through,” sings a more or less happily married middle-aged man to his wife at one point. “Once again, who are you?”
The play can apparently be done with as few as four actors. The ACE production uses fourteen, and that feels about right for the show. If I had to pick one actor from the ensemble to comment on, it would be Brent Anderson. His comfortable depiction of of the trials of old-age romance feels perfectly right.
The very simple set is by Joe Zingo, and costumes are well done by Mary Jensen.
The show is neither timely nor postmodern nor political nor incisively relevant. What it offers, rather, is a perfectly comfortable and affectionate and brilliantly funny and entertaining treatment of the eternal human quagmire of romance, love, marriage, divorce and, well, what the hell do you do when you’re both finally staring death in the face?
Go see it.