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On Theater:

Don’t change a thing, love

April 29, 2010|By Tom Titus

When Lysander, in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” observed, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” he pretty much nailed what playwrights before (a few) and since (a plethora) have summoned as a central theme.

Romantic involvement has long served as fodder for the writer’s wit, and lately some modern scribes have zeroed in on that topic, the most successful being Stephen Sondheim in “Company.” Close behind, however, are Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts, who created a series of musical vignettes titled “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.”

This was in 1996 and the show ran for 5,003 performances, the second-longest running off-Broadway musical (behind the venerable legend “The Fantasticks”).

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The Costa Mesa Playhouse is tackling this rather exhausting work with pleasing results, though it’ll be with us only through May 16.

Played out on a bare stage under the spirited direction of David Anthony Blair, “I Love You” focuses on the stages of relationships from nervous first dates through hookups at funerals and innumerable varieties in between. It’s cute and clever in its first act, more darkly pointed and funnier in the second.

Amazingly, the show revolves simply around a cast of two men (Shaun Leslie Thomas and Stephen Hulsey) and two women (Nicole Dominguez and Emily Price), who do the work of hundreds (other versions have employed additional actors). All have excellent voices and all — particularly the statuesque Dominguez — possess sharp comic timing.

Highlights of the first act include Thomas and Dominguez as a pair of nerds impersonating “A Stud and a Babe,” Thomas breaking down at a chick flick to which he was dragged by Price and Dominguez’s solo “I Will Be Loved Tonight” after a meet-cute tennis match.

The second act kicks into high gear with Price’s “Always a Bridesmaid” solo, then turns to the perils of marriage and children, with all four confined to a car on a factious family journey. Dominguez’s turn as a divorcee making a video for a dating service also delights.

Inevitably, the theme turns to late-life romance, with Hulsey and Price playing two widowed strangers who meet at a funeral and, predictably, hit it off in the highly amusing duet “I Can Live With That.” It evokes warm memories of an old Carol Burnett sketch.

Keyboardist Arthur Abadi and violinist Lauren Baba provide all the orchestration that’s needed for this sprightly show, under the musical direction of Nathaniel Brown. The only downside is the length of time required for costume changes, but this is inevitable with a four-person production.

“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” will jog the memories of anyone who’s been involved in a romantic relationship (which covers just about everybody). It’s cleverly constructed, effectively produced and beautifully performed, a bright feather in the Costa Mesa Playhouse’s cap.

If You Go

What: “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”

Where: Costa Mesa Playhouse, 611 Hamilton St.

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through May 16

Cost: $16 to $18

Call: (949) 650-5269


TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot. His reviews appear Fridays.

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