By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
It helps, of course, that Theatre Three has assembled four such appealing, versatile performers under the astute direction of Terry Dobson. In moments when I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change! does get tangled in the self-evident and the prosaic, you can savor the unforced glow of this quartet of personalities as they take us from young adulthood to the senior years, from marriage and divorce through breakup and makeup. With live piano and flute accompaniment, some speedy costume changes, and a prop here and there, we are consistently charmed and delighted by Ashley Wood, Carrie Slaughter, Linda K. Leonard, and Greg Dulcie as they play a combination of different couples who, too often, try to get as much as they can while they give as little as possible.
If writer-composers Roberts and DiPietro would only ask me, I could cut several numbers to make this show faster, funnier, and more discerning in its observations. Do we really need a tune about how ugly and depressing bridesmaids' dresses are? Nope, so nix "Always a Bridesmaid." Ditto for "Why? Cause I'm a Guy!" in which we are shocked--shocked--to learn that men don't like to clean, don't like to ask for directions, and are fond of beer and scratching themselves. Both sketches are unworthy of the inspiration that keeps the better stuff buzzing along with an electric crackle.
The best segments in I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change! are the ones in which the genders of the characters could be interchanged, because the grievance being displayed is so universal. In "Scared Straight," two shy singles (Slaughter and Wood) attend a dating seminar in a maximum-security penitentiary conducted by a mass murderer (Dulcie) who, himself unattached and tired of being surrounded by smooching, infatuated couples, went shotgunning for lovebirds. He bullies the two singles in the audience, drill-sergeant style, into dropping their standards and going on a date. "Tear Jerk" finds a guy (Dulcie) who hates "chick flicks" dragged to one on a date with a woman (Leonard) and has to fight tears as the film's tragic story line takes hold. "Whatever Happened to Baby's Parents?" features new parents (Slaughter and Dulcie) who have become dull-eyed, infant-obsessed strangers to their single friend (Wood).
Theatre Three's quartet of actor-singers are charming in the show's worst moments, brilliantly funny in the best. Ashley Wood is one of our indispensable talents, effortlessly effective in lunatic comedy and tear-drenched tragedy. He neatly mixes his own gentle charisma with a variety of different character chords. Carrie Slaughter, a lovely ingenue type, excels when cast against type, either as a bespectacled wallflower or a mother grimly determined to see her son to the altar. Linda K. Leonard's chattering highlight is as a woman whose life is so busy, she insists on cramming the full arc of a failed relationship into the first date. But the real revelation for me in this show is Greg Dulcie, who has in the past given polished performances that nonetheless managed to lack the illumination of real character. Whether playing an aged Jewish man who cruises funerals for dates or the mindlessly dedicated new dad who gnaws furiously at the button eyes of a teddy bear to make sure it's child-safe, Dulcie shows more zest and ingenuity inhabiting a role for a few minutes here than he has in two hours. His success is emblematic of the entire rollicking evening that is I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change!, in which the performers are pitch-perfect no matter how often they change for us.