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|Written by Kevin Johns|
|Wednesday, 02 December 2009 00:00|
"I can barely fit," exclaims my eight-month pregnant wife as we settle into our seats at the Ottawa Little Theater. "My hips are touching the arm rest on both sides," she adds, before looking me directly in the eye and asking, "Are your hips touching the sides?" I hold my breath, hoping she doesn't notice my eyes darting back and forth in panic. If I take too long to answer, this could be real trouble, but if I say the wrong thing... who knows what will happen?
Luckily, just as I am about to open my mouth, the lights in the theatre darken, and the curtain rises on I Love You, You're The witty and catchy songs are delivered in confident and melodic tones.Perfect, Now Change - a musical about men, women, relationships, and what to say when your wife asks you if you fit into your seat.
The play consists of a series of sketches chronicling the ups and downs (mostly downs) of romantic relationships. As director Debbie Millet explains in the program, "Act I details the journey from dating and waiting to lovers and marriage, while Act II reveals the agonies and triumphs of in-laws and newborns, trips in the family car and pick-up techniques for the geriatric set."
Each scene features a different set of characters, so the production's four actors, Jennifer Fontaine, Rejean Mayer, David McLaughlin, and Christine Moran, face the challenge of embodying dozens of characters, of varying ages and attitudes, over the course of the play. Some characters work better than others (Mayer is much more believable as a man's man than he is as a sniffling nerd, for example), but overall the cast does a surprisingly good job of transitioning from one character to the next with only the slightest costume changes to aid them along.
All four performers shine when it comes to the musical performances, and the witty and catchy songs are delivered in confident and melodic tones. Christine Moran, positioned far stage right for several songs, sounded a little quiet from where we were seated in far house right, but she also managed to steal the show with her country solo number, "Always a Bridesmaid".
The actors are accompanied by music director/pianist Paul Legault and violinist Micheline Kinsella, who remain on stage throughout the play, and are even given their own comedic moment of gender rivalry.
Written by playwright/lyricist Joe DiPietro and composer Jimmy Roberts, the New York production of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change closed last summer after 5,003 performances, making it the longest-running off-Broadway musical of all time.
It is easy to see why this play is so popular: there is a broadness to the characters, scenes, and humour that clearly appeals to a diverse group of theatre-goers. This certainly isn't Brecht or Sondheim; it's more like of an excellent musical episode of Saturday Night Live. It is for anyone and everyone to enjoy.It is easy to see why this play is so popular.
There are, of course, drawbacks to the populist approach. The people we see on stage are not really characters so much as caricatures, and by shirking narrative and nuance, the play instead presents virtually every stereotype imaginable regarding relationships, dating, marriage and sex. Of course, many stereotypes are rooted in truth, and by parading one after another across the stage, the show makes it nearly impossible to watch without recognizing some aspect of one's own life being played out before you.
Most likely, those moments of recognition and the laughs they evoke are what you will remember when you leave the theatre. The handful of sketches that missed their mark will fade from memory, and those one or two scenes that seemed stolen directly from your own life will keep you and your significant other smiling and laughing, as you recount the scene for each other, all the way home.
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change plays at the Ottawa Little Theatre from Dec. 1 to Dec. 19. For more info visit: www.ottawalittletheatre.com