Friday, April 09, 2010

American Heartland Theatre: "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change"

For some reason I can not explain, maybe it was the title, I was not really looking forward to the latest American Heartland Theatre (Kansas City's best theatre venue) production of "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change." I was expecting the same, tired marriage and relationship farce that has been done over and over. "I Love You.." is a musical face about love, marriage, dating, sex, relationships, growing old and all that. But the songs are so witty, the music so catching and this minimalist production (spare set, solo piano and 4 actors) so sparkling and well paced that I found myself laughing out loud all evening while reflecting on how difficult and heartbreaking we humans can be.

The show succeeds on the strengths of the 4 actors, favorite Jesslyn Kincaid, Natalie Weaver, Jon Daugharthy and Adam Branson. All have fine voices, a great sense of timing and comic ability and the versatility to assume multiple roles. The always wonderful Anthony Edwards was on stage doing his usual bang up job as accompanist. As I mentioned, the sets were stark simple, but not looking cheap, just the minimum to set the mood. The scene of the 4 actors and husband and wife with two kids in a car was a masterpiece of clever use of props; each actor was in a rolling office chair and sat in formation as in a car and then spun all over the stage as the inevitable argument ensued.

Easily the best scene was "The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz, featuring Kincaid as an older divorced woman recording her first dating video. Kincaid sat before a live camera and delivered a poignant monologue on the cruelties and heartbreaks of relationships and love. Her image was projected above the stage as we voyeuristically watched her pour her heart out. When the unseen recorder tells her it was "kind of depressing, should we do it all over again", Rose states, "no, I said what I needed to say." Like the rest of the show, book and lyricist Joe DiPietro, didn't hit us over the head but allowed us to reflect and, yes laugh too, about our attempts to find love.

Runs through April 25.

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