By George Basler
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change has an impressive pedigree. The musical premiered Off-Broadway in 1996 and didn’t close until 2008, making it the second longest running show in Off-Broadway history. Based on a terrific production that opened July 15 at the Chenango River Theatre in Greene, the success is well-deserved.
The show, which runs through Aug. 7, features a talented and appealing cast — Jenny Hoofnagle, Vito Longo, Billy Sharpe and Kimberly Wilpon — playing multiple roles in a series of sketches that gently satirize the complicated relationships between men and women.
The musical’s tagline is: “Everything you have ever secretly thought about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws, but were afraid to ask.” And that pretty much sums up its theme. While the tone is satirical, it’s not mean-spirited. The sketches are perspective at times, sometimes painfully so. But they are intended to draw laughs and nods of recognition, not blood. In a nutshell, the show is an amiable and likeable one.
The music by Jimmy Roberts is tuneful, but the show’s main strength is the wit and the refreshingly off-beat quality of Joe DiPietro’s book and lyrics. Everything is fair game, including awkward dates, stereotypical gender roles, the joys and travails of parenting, the male ego and female body phobias.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change requires a first-rate cast to pull it off. And CRT’s production certainly provides that. All four cast members have good Broadway-style singing voices and a fine touch with comedy, and they all get a chance to be featured during the show.
The first act focuses on the single life and dating scene. The second act turns to marriage and parenthood. While the first act is light and breezy, the second successfully strives for some poignancy even as it pokes fun at the foibles of married life.
Especially entertaining is how the actors, under the solid direction of Kory Yamada, present some of DiPietro’s quirkier sketches. In one scene, Sharpe hilariously plays a demented convict who provides relationship advice to singles during a counseling session in a maximum-security prison. In another, Hoofnagle bemoans her status as a bridesmaid, never a bride, as she strips off purposely hideous bridesmaid dresses.
Then there is the sketch, skillfully directed by Yamada, in which the four actors maneuver across the stage in office chairs as they lampoon back-seat driving and the agony of long family road trips.
Longo gets to shine in the poignant song “Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love with You” that humorously and sensitively describes a man’s love for his wife after a long marriage. It’s beautifully done. Equally good is a duet featuring Sharpe and Hoofnagle in which an elderly man and an elderly woman become attracted to each during a wake at a funeral home.
Finally, Wilpon has a blistering monologue in the second act in which a woman makes a dating video after her marriage has crashed and burned. The bitter and desperate tone of the sketch is somewhat out of sync with the rest of the show. But it’s compelling, and Wilpon plays it with great skill. Wilpon also does a wonderful job with the bittersweet song, “He Called Me” in the first act.
A big shout out also goes to pianist Karen Clark, who provides solid accompaniment throughout.
Some social norms have changed since I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change was first performed 26 years ago. Don’t expect references to Google, Tinder or online hookups. Non-traditional relationships are nowhere to be seen either. But much of the material about the mating dance between men and women isn’t dated one bit.
Go and enjoy and nod your head in recognition.
IF YOU GO: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change will be performed through Aug. 7
at the Chenango River Theatre, 991 NY-12, Greene. Thursday-Saturday performances are
at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday performances are at 2 p.m. Single tickets are $30. The fastest way
to purchase tickets on the theater’s website, chenangorivertheatre.org, which also lists
prices for season tickets. For phone orders, there is a 24-hour reservation line (607-656-
8499). It may take two to three days to process phone orders.
All performances begin on time with no late seating.
Free tickets for high school and college students are available at all evening
performances. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations, which are
required for the free ticket program.