I don't know, maybe it's just me or maybe it's the times, but I sure could use an evening of 100 percent unadulterated charm. And I've found one. Let's Pretend We're Married, a creation of the two major-league talents who star in it, is a delight as much as a surprise.
You'd think that by now, a new revue surveying the institution of marriage would be used up before anyone sang a note. Along come Jennifer Childs and Tony Braithwaite with a show so fresh and so free of cliche - except when it employs banality as a juicy target - that it's a revelation.
Even odder, Let's Pretend We're Married, staged by 1812 Productions at the Prince Music Theater, seems new despite the generous portion of material it spirits from the har-har compartment of an aged vault. That includes bits from George Burns and Gracie Allen, from "the Bickersons" radio skits, and from the catalogs of Henny Youngman, Phyllis Diller (the stuff about her hubby Fang is gleefully lacerating), and others.
Childs and Braithwaite, each a master of comic timing, effortlessly blend the Grade-A shtick with such songs as Lerner and Loewe's "Almost Like Being in Love." That title is an accurate depiction of the premise of Let's Pretend We're Married - and, come to think of it, a reason the show works so nicely. It's not really hosted by a married couple; the theme of the evening is, they're almost like being in love.
Childs, artistic director of 1812 Productions, and Braithwaite, a busy actor who seems like the artistic director of himself, often perform together - they've been doing so since 11 years back, when they played in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Arden. Many times, they play husband-and-wife roles. They are a great match in talent, chemistry, and physical stature - not exactly pint-sized, but compact, never mind that they can be the most towering forces on a stage.
In Let's Pretend We're Married, they play themselves, or a stage version of themselves, and make it clear that they're always pretenders to marriage. (Childs' real husband is Braithwaite's pal, the actor Scott Greer, and Braithwaite is single.) Pretense is what gives the show its underlying oomph: The two are real people entering into a play marriage that by now they've perfected.
They start off funny and get progressively funnier as the 70 minutes dash by, including a Newlywed Game with the audience and a renewal of vows administered by Braithwaite, who took maybe five minutes to get a Web clergy license for the role. (Want to be the renewing couple? Choose traditional, Hawaiian, or Vegas.)
The show is enlivened by pianist Owen Robbins, and it ends with Childs and Braithwaite as cruise-ship lounge lizards, delivering a love-tune medley that reeks with smarm - and, for the audience, charm.
Presented by 1812 Productions at the Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut St., through June 14. Tickets: $20-$32. 215-592-9560, Ext. 10, or www.1812productions.org. EndText