"I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" - ½
"I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" has been a staple on Chicago area stages since its local premiere 20 years ago at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.
By my count, there have been at least seven professional local productions of writer/lyricist Joe DiPietro and composer Jimmy Roberts' affable, 1996 off-Broadway musical about modern romance in its various incarnations. Steel Beam Theatre's capable revival is the latest.
The show's popularity is easily understood. Set to a pop score (with traces of country, doo wop, blues and tango), "I Love You/Now Change" unfolds as a series of songs and sketches and chronicles romantic relationships from dating to divorce. Centered around stock characters (career women, macho guys, commitment-averse singletons, frazzled parents), the vignettes address familiar themes (loneliness, insecurity, uncertainty, fear).
More than a few scenes and songs feel dated, especially now, and the suggestion that marriage is necessary for a person to have a fulfilling life is flawed.
Still, several numbers resonate. Accompanied by a solid trio of music director/keyboardist Bob Kresz, guitarist Richard Bingham and violinist Crystal Kotvan, Kat Metzger's emotional "I Will Be Loved Tonight" expresses the giddy anticipation of new romance with a friend-turned lover played by James Mueller. Late in the second act, Kyle Donahue's pensive "Shouldn't I be Less in Love with You?" expresses the contentment a happy marriage provides.
In the penultimate "I Can Live with That," widowed seniors (engagingly played by Michael Metcalf and Kelly Figley) begin a courtship that suggests romance has no age limit. Metcalf, whose demeanor and talent recall the late song-and-dance-man Bernie Yvon, is delightful.
As a recently divorced, middle-aged woman making a video for an online dating service, Christine Pfenniger pairs vulnerability and determination to deliver perhaps the most authentic moment in director Bernie Weiler's production. Pfenniger's unaffected performance reflects the message of persistence that animates "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change." Throughout we meet characters who consider giving up on romance, yet they persevere in their pursuit of love.
Weiler introduces a potentially interesting idea in the pair of doors that serve as the production's primary set pieces. The idea of doors opening and closing, opportunities taken and missed, is compelling. Unfortunately, it's one Weiler fails to fully explore. That said, Weiler cleverly casts Figley and Metcalf, who appear to be the youngest cast members, as an older couple, a reminder that romance is ageless.
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Location: Steel Beam Theatre, 111 W. Main St., St. Charles. (630) 587-8521 or steelbeamtheatre.org
Showtimes: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday through April 29
Running time: About two hours, including intermission
Parking: Street and garage parking nearby
Rating: For adults, includes sexual situations, mature language and subject matter