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By Judith Cookis Rubens
The creators of "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" certainly had no lack of material for their musical revue about the ebbs and flows of dating, love and marriage.
Awkward first dates, finding time for passion, dating after divorce – it's all endearingly set to music, cleverly parodied and relatable to many ages.
Farmers Alley Theatre's new production gives this late '90s hit a thoroughly fresh, local update, thanks, mostly, to strong direction and a wildly talented four-person cast.
Allison Hunt, Greg Laux, Robert Weiner and Whitney Weiner take on more than 60 characters in dozens of humorous vignettes.
There are the usual riffs on stereotypical male-female behavior – ego-driven, lazy husbands paired with nagging, shopping-obsessed wives/girlfriends. But, luckily, those are the minority of skits.
More interesting are scenes with an unexpected twist, such as the busy couple on a blind date (Whitney Weiner and Laux) who skip the awkward initial chit chat and jump ahead to their first fight and make up. "Best first date ever," they croon. Or the bone-tired young married couple (Hunt and Laux), determined to get it on amongst constant interruptions from their not-sleepy kiddos. Not to mention the sweet elderly couple pick-up at the funeral parlor (Whitney and Robert Weiner – actors married in real life).
Newcomer Hunt makes a winning first impression here, bringing a lovable goofiness and energy to an array of nerdy, all-too-honest characters. Her lonely single gal in "He Called Me" is utterly surprised to have snagged a suitor. Hunt's ample comic timing and beautiful voice make her sentimental solos like "I Will Be Loved Tonight" really resonate.
Whitney Weiner also has great fun with her roles, especially the intrusive, sarcastic mother trying to push an immature son into marriage in "Hey There Single Gal/Guy." Her winning turn as a secretly happy perennial bridesmaid is another show highlight.
The men are just as funny, often exposing a less seen, tender side of husbands and fatherhood. Robert Weiner has a delightful dance with his son's teddy bear in "The Baby Song." It's a sharp turn, as just minutes earlier, he unleashed a hilariously obscene rant as a prison convict trying to scare wary singles straight into marriage.
Laux brings big laughs as an action-flick lovin' macho man who can't help crying at a chick flick with his lady ("Tear Jerk"). But it's his character's understated, romantic crooning "Shouldn't I Be Less in Love with You?" to an aging wife that gives this show its heart.
Small, well set-up moments – two empty nesters silently reading their newspapers together or two sleep-deprived new parents clutching their baby monitors – leave audiences chuckling with recognition.
Director Adam Weiner (brother to Robert Weiner and sister-in-law to Whitney Weiner) makes smart choices in his well-paced, thoughtful staging, including adding numerous references to Kalamazoo attractions to help local audiences relate. The script, at times, can show its age with references to late '90s infomercials, once-hot movie stars and old technology, but director Weiner sprinkles in updated references to iPhones and Keurig coffee makers to help bring it current.
W. Douglas Blickle's straightforward set design includes well-placed video screens displaying local sites as backdrop. The screens also broadcast scene titles, themselves often giggle-worthy ("The Lasagna Incident"; "I'll Call You Soon (Yeah, Right)").
Cast members become new characters in a flash, thanks to quick-timed set and costume changes.
The quartet pulls off Kathryn S. Williams' clever choreography, which often keeps things moving. On a family road trip from hell ("On the Highway of Love"), two chairs become a moving car, steered by actors playing annoying teens. This fun scene is ensemble teamwork at its best.
Jimmy Roberts' upbeat music and DiPietro's rhyming lyrics are deceptively simple and downright catchy.
There's not much changing that needs to be done here. This musical is pretty perfect.
SHOW DETAILS: "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" continues at Farmers Alley Theatre, 221 Farmers Alley, Kalamazoo, Thursday-Sunday through Aug. 12. Tickets: $27-$29. For information: 269-343-2727 or www.farmersalleytheatre.com.
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