COHOES — The late, great Debbie Reynolds once sang “Love Is a Simple Thing,” a pop standard by June Carroll and Arthur Siegel.
But according to lyricist Joe DiPietro and composer Jimmy Roberts, it really isn’t, and therein lies the hilarity (and occasional poignance) of the 1996 musical “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” now in a sterling production at Cohoes Music Hall.
Producing artistic director Owen Smith and his Playhouse Stage Company have thrown open the doors after all of these awful months and, with proper protocols in place, invited us to try indoor theater again. If you feel up to it (vaccinations provide both a medical and psychological measure of comfort), you will be rewarded with a script that charts the course of true love which, as another noted wordsmith wrote, “never did run smooth.”
Through 20 thematically related scenes/musical numbers over two acts, we observe various men and women—all played by four of the area’s finest singing actors—negotiate the dating scene, marriage, parenthood, and second chances late in life. No matter where you are on the romance spectrum—single, married, straight, LGBTQ, old, young—you are bound, at some point, to be looking in the mirror during the evening.
For example, did you ever wish that you could skip the awkward first date and go, say, directly to the fourth date? Have you ever tried to be a stud or a babe when you actually were neither? Women, have you ever experienced a single man drought? Men, have you ever gone to a “chick flick” and found yourself crying despite every effort not to? Who here has been a bridesmaid six times, but never a bride? And have you ever tired of hearing about other people’s children? You get the picture.
Director Michael LoPorto shows no rust from this imposed exile from live entertainment. The creative force behind many of Park Playhouse’s exciting summer productions, LoPorto cleverly prepares us for the play proper with video clips (designed, along with the set, by Ray Stokes) of many of TV’s favorite couples, from “I Love Lucy” to “Modern Family,” at war and in love.
He is aided by a crack tech team, including lighting by Mike Hanrahan, stage management by Tom McGrath, and nimble work by a young stage crew.
The onstage band—Mark Foster (percussion), Julie Taylor (reeds), Paul Reepmeyer (bass/guitar), and Brian Axford (keyboard and direction)—plays the varied score (ballad, tango, gospel, pop, country, etc.) with verve and charm.
Seeing performers Marc Christopher, Dashira Cortes, Brandon Jones, and Molly Rose McGrath again on Friday night reminded me of how rich the Capital Region is in musical talent and how much we’ve missed it. Transforming credibly from one character to the next, they play off of each other with spot-on timing. And individually each has a moment in the limelight: McGrath in “I Will Be Loved Tonight” and “The Very First Dating Video of Rosie Ritz”; Cortes in “Always a Bridesmaid”; Christopher in “The Baby Song”; and Jones in “Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love with You?” Comedy? Pathos? This quartet mines it all.
That wordsmith I mentioned before: London was beset by the bubonic plague numerous times during his career, forcing shut-downs of the playhouses. And each time theater returned, I bet there was relief and joy.
I felt both in Cohoes.
“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”
WHERE: Playhouse Stage Company, Cohoes Music Hall, 58 Remsen St., Cohoes
WHEN: Fri.-Sun., through May 23
HOW MUCH: $30
MORE INFO: 518-434-0776 or Eventbrite.com
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