by Wendy Rosenfield
for the Inquirer
A few years back, Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts’ I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! and its many spores--all containing sketches and songs organized around a central theme (relationships, menopause, religion)--proliferated like an invasive species. Thankfully, the show that launched them all, Off-Broadway’s second-longest running, closed in 2008 after 12 years. Here’s hoping Montgomery Theater’s production represents its final throes.
It’s not that there’s anything glaringly wrong with this production. Accompanied by Christopher Tolomeo on keyboard and an occasionally off-tune Hugh Bryan on violin, Jackie Washam and Megan Rucidlo as Woman #1 and #2, and Joseph Michael O’Brien and Michael Philip O’Brien, as Man #2 and #1 are competent singers and charming performers. However, their script and director Tom Quinn only allow for the broadest interpretation of pre-internet heteromance, and by “broadest interpretation,” I mean nagging mothers wearing early-‘60s-era headscarves and a male golfer wearing an honest-to-goodness Tam o’Shanter with plaid pants.
And DiPietro and Roberts aren’t even entirely successful at staying on topic. Roberts’ tunes, which adopt every musical style at his disposal, have an irritating tendency to meander without reason far from their starting point, rarely to return. DiPietro’s book follows the heaviest-trodden male/female stereotypes, except when it gets distracted, as in the song “Waiting Trio,” during which men like watching sports (but women don’t), women like shopping (but men don’t), and also, there’s a long line for the ladies’ room.
Even Justin Couchara’s set gets it wrong, with platforms covered by black-lined, geometric Piet Mondrian-style designs filled in with tertiary, rather than primary colors. Certainly, the bluntness of pure neoplasticism makes a better fit for this unnatural melange. But as a metaphor for the whole effort, it’s honest enough. I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! resembles human relationships only in that it is performed by human women and men. I don’t need realism, but even the most basic humor theorist acknowledges that for comedy to work, mere recognition isn’t enough; laughs require an element of surprise, and the only surprise here is that so many people have been duped for so long by this show and its ilk.
Playing at: Montgomery Theater, 124 Main St., Souderton. Through Sunday, Apr. 28. Tickets: $34. Information: 215-723-9984 or www.montgomerytheater.org.