Friday, January 30, 2015

Review: 'I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change'

Stand-out comic performances reinvigorate this delightful, if dated musical comedy.

Review: ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change'

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(clockwise from left) Fran Prisco, Lyn Philistine, Christopher Sutton and Ellie Mooney in 'I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change'

By Jim Rutter


Everyone’s done it. Yes, what you’re thinking too, but every regular theatergoer has seen (or will see) I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Lyricist Joe DiPietro and musician Jimmy Roberts’ 1996 battle-of-the-sexes musical comedy ran off-Broadway for over a decade, has been translated into more than a dozen languages for productions worldwide, and staged in local venues across the country.

Few companies I’ve seen have staged it with the same charm and comic aplomb as the production now running at the Walnut Street Theatre’s Independence Studio on 3. DiPietro’s book pokes evenhanded, light fun at the courtship habits of two couples: Man 1 (Christopher Sutton), Woman 1 (Lyn Philistine) and Man 2 (Fran Prisco) and Woman 2 (Ellie Mooney).

All four struggle to find love, affection, or a reprieve from disappointed parents or a spinster-haunted future. Mooney and Prisco delight as a pair of aging widows finding new love at a funeral while in Philistine’s touching performance, a returned phone call becomes a life-affirming event while

If that sounds a bit dated—who calls people on the phone anymore?—well, it at least coheres with a handful of clichés and other decades-old references to Liz Taylor, video dating, personal ads and anyone’s desire to see Sharon Stone nude in a movie. The only constant from 1996 to now, other than Stallone and Schwarzenegger still starring in action films, lies in how ridiculous men and women look trying to go from strangers to lovers to married parents once again feeling like strangers.

Here, Sutton’s direction emphasizes the humor at every opportunity, and with this cast, I can’t blame him. With a raised eyebrow and a sharp stare, Prisco transitions from disgruntled prison inmate to befuddled dad, Mooney’s character turns fascinate, Sutton bristles with pitiable exasperation, and Philistine disarms with her “who, me?” timing. Not even the onstage violinist could refrain from laughing at her line about condoms and lasagna.

Roberts’ music draws on a variety of styles, and while the cast sings each song with care, this production earns its recommendation from the comedy. Chances are, if you’re man or woman, you’ve already engaged in the behavior it pokes fun at. At the Walnut, you can enjoy being on the other side of the joke for once.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change: Presented through June 29th at the Walnut Independence Studio on 3, 825 Walnut St. Tickets: $35 to $45. Information: 215-574-3550 or

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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