John W. Engeman Theater’s I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT NOW CHANGE
Warms Up a Cold Winter With So Much FUN!!
Barbara Anne Kirshner
The Engeman Theater in Northport is known as Long Island’s professional theatre and their current production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change reaffirms that reputation.
This is a first class production in every way from the astute directorial choices to the polished four-person acting company to the magnificent set and impressive lighting. Every aspect is well-thought-out and enthusiastically delivered.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a series of vignettes joined by an overriding arc that dissects the stages of love and relationships from first dates to marriage, children, and into the twilight years. This musical comedy with book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, music by Jimmy Roberts and orchestration by Doug Katsaros is the second-longest running Off-Broadway musical having premiered at the Westside Theatre on August 1, 1996, until it closed July 27, 2008.
This musical calls for its four-person cast to be versatile actors, singers and dancers with high energy from start to finish. The characters are designated in the program as Man 1 (Understudy, Matt DaSilva, performed on the night of this review), Man 2 (Danny Bernardy), Woman 1 (Lauren Weinberg) and Woman 2 (Gina Naomi Baez) leaving names open since they are required to morph into completely different characters in each scene. Transformations including personalities, costumes and hair design happen seamlessly with the occasional added responsibility for actors to move parts of the set into place for the next scene.
Director and choreographer, John Simpkins, keeps the show in constant motion with insightful choices. The actors deliver first-rate performances that require them to age starting as young daters to young marrieds to parents to middle aged into elderly all the while giving believable performances at every stage. Simpkins dance routines energize the scenes and give dimension to the characters. Of special note are the powerhouse soprano voices of Weinberg and Baez. The entire company captivates with exquisite stage movement and lively dancing. The band under the musical direction of Benjamin Stayner is full, rich and flawlessly connects one scene to the next.
Act I, Scene 1 Prologue opens with Cantata for a First Date chanted by what appears to be four monks swathed in hooded robes introducing the audience to the mystical journey they are about to embark upon. The set instantly becomes four abstract apartments with each actor primping for a first date in Not Tonight, I’m Busy, Busy, Busy. Baez and Bernardy confess “I’ve got baggage” and in a funny bit they offer to skip the first and second date nights, in fact all date nights, then she decides to replace him with a swipe on her dating app. Other highlights include the scene titled Men Who Talk and the Women Who Pretend They’re Listening with Weinberg lamenting “There’s a serious single man drought.” Then hoping, “He might get better by dessert.” In the scene Tear Jerk, Bernardy is hysterical as a guy whose girlfriend (Baez) makes him watch a sappy romantic melodrama. When the movie builds to a tearjerker finale so does Bernardy’s emotions. A tear trickles down his cheek and he cries out, “My manhood is capsizing!” Mortified, he erupts in a flood of tears.
Wedding vows closes Act I and segues into Act II which takes off to a rollicking start with Baez belting out Always a Bridesmaid as she flutters around in a typically hideous bridesmaid dress droning, “All those husbands are gone but those dresses live on.” There is a clever bit in Scene 4 entitled The Family that Drives Together, as four swivel chairs represent a car with the parents in the two front chairs and the two kids in the second row. While driving, the parents acknowledge, “Once we start the car our marriage goes to hell. We’re obnoxious and profane.” The father declares he has no control in the household but watch out when he is behind the wheel of the car. Scene five titled Waiting has Baez asking her boyfriend who is entrenched in the football game, “How long do we have left in the game?” DaSilva responds, “32 seconds.” Baez asks, “32 real life seconds or 32 football seconds? I’m waiting for you the entire weekend!” Act II builds to the discontented marriage stage with the searching question, “All the years we’ve been through…once again, who are you?” Poignant Scene 7 titled The Very first Dating Video of Rose Ritz has a recently divorced woman (Baez) reduced to making a dating video called For Those Who Have Been Dumped.com. Baez confesses to filming this video to commemorate the 6 month anniversary of the end of her marriage. It seems her husband dumped her on her 40th birthday for a limping grandmother
The Epilogue proclaims, “The book of love shall be written. All good people go forth. Find someone you love, then spend the rest of your life trying to change them.” Hence, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.
The Engeman is known for extraordinary sets and scenic designer, Kyle Dixon, has created an outstanding vision that easily glides from one scene to the next. Lighting design by John Burkland compliments the latticework of Dixon’s backdrop with mood lighting that reflects assorted colors to fit each scene. Costumes are an important element in this show and Dustin Cross’ creations establish the numerous characters and are thoughtfully constructed for quick changes.
The Engeman’s I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change invites audiences to a delightful evening of FUN produced in top notch Broadway style.
Now playing through March 3, 2024. Box office:631-261-2900
John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main Street, Northport
To order online:www.engemantheater.com