By Jim Rutter
For THE INQUIRER
Everyone's done it. Yes, what you're thinking too, but every regular theatergoer has seen (or will see) I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. Lyricist Joe DiPietro and musician Jimmy Roberts' 1996 battle-of-the-sexes musical comedy ran off-Broadway for over a decade, has been translated into more than a dozen languages for productions worldwide, and staged in local venues across the country.
Few companies I've seen have staged it with the same charm and comic aplomb as the production now running at the Walnut Street Theatre's Independence Studio on 3. DiPietro's book pokes evenhanded, light fun at the courtship habits of two couples: Man 1 (Christopher Sutton), Woman 1 (Lyn Philistine) and Man 2 (Fran Prisco) and Woman 2 (Ellie Mooney).
All four struggle to find love, affection, or a reprieve from disappointed parents or a spinster-haunted future. Mooney and Prisco delight as a pair of aging widows finding new love at a funeral while in Philistine's touching performance, a returned phone call becomes a life-affirming event while
If that sounds a bit dated—who calls people on the phone anymore?—well, it at least coheres with a handful of clichés and other decades-old references to Liz Taylor, video dating, personal ads and anyone's desire to see Sharon Stone nude in a movie. The only constant from 1996 to now, other than Stallone and Schwarzenegger still starring in action films, lies in how ridiculous men and women look trying to go from strangers to lovers to married parents once again feeling like strangers.
Here, Sutton's direction emphasizes the humor at every opportunity, and with this cast, I can't blame him. With a raised eyebrow and a sharp stare, Prisco transitions from disgruntled prison inmate to befuddled dad, Mooney's character turns fascinate, Sutton bristles with pitiable exasperation, and Philistine disarms with her "who, me?" timing. Not even the onstage violinist could refrain from laughing at her line about condoms and lasagna.
Roberts' music draws on a variety of styles, and while the cast sings each song with care, this production earns its recommendation from the comedy. Chances are, if you're man or woman, you've already engaged in the behavior it pokes fun at. At the Walnut, you can enjoy being on the other side of the joke for once.
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change: Presented through June 29th at the Walnut Independence Studio on 3, 825 Walnut St. Tickets: $35 to $45. Information: 215-574-3550 or walnutstreettheatre.org