I love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

August 1, 2020 | By | Reply More

★★☆  Deliciously cynical

Online: Fri 31 July-Sat 1 Aug 2020
Review by Thom Dibdin

Room 29 theatre has come out of the Covid closet with a neatly packaged and deliciously cynical production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change available online for just 24 hours.

The production has been auditioned, rehearsed and performed online and while there are some teething problems with the live stream, there’s little to quibble with over director Neil Lavin’s presentation and editing of the production.

Caitlin Davis in Always the Bridesmaid

The show, which premiered in 1996 and ran off Broadway for 12 years, is a musical revue that casts its largely jaundiced eye over the ironies, desperations and internal contradictions of the mating game.

Across 20 or so scenes Joe DiPietro’s book and lyrics cover the whole of the adult dating spectrum, from an awkward first date between busy yuppies, to a last one – between pensioners meeting up at a stranger’s funeral.

In between there are acerbic comments on the compromises everyone makes. All augmented by Jimmy Roberts’ music, often delivering songs in a style that reinforces the divergence between what is being said and what is actually meant.

sexually frustrated

As film editor, Lavin ensures that the production works excellently as a piece of lockdown entertainment, created by performers working in isolation, as he floats individuals in and out of frame as needs be.

Sometimes, such as in And Now It’s Sexy Time – with Ross Hunter and Caitlin Davies as a sexually frustrated couple being sold satisfaction guaranteeing litigation by John Bruce, overseen by Andrew Gardiner’s attorney – the result trumps anything you could do live on stage.

Caitlin Davies, Ross Hunter and Andrew Gardiner in And Now It’s Sexy Time

The presentation actively makes this one of the best non-singing scenes. In others, however, Lavin’s role as director is not able to overcome the issues of comic timing between performers who are not in the same room, which occasionally detract from the efforts they put in.

This is highlighted by the only performers passing lockdown together, Tom Chippendale and Megan Jarvie, whose duets are highlights of the show. Although they do have the benefit of one it being of the best scenes, both the spoken introduction and the ensuing tango duet of Sex and the Married Couple are as well presented as they are performed.

brilliantly done

Indeed, the music is really what most people will be here for. And in throwing his net widely, Lavin has managed to bring together a cast of 17 talented people for whom issues of timing when singing, while still apparent, are far less obvious, no doubt thanks to musical director Steven Segaud.

Indeed, at times, it is hard to imagine that the performers are not in the same room. Michael Pellman and Katie Lynch’s take on A Stud and A Babe is brilliantly done with a particularly exciting moment as it changes tone to emphasises the difference between real life and expectations.

Mergan Jarvie and Tom Chippendale in Sex and the Married Couple

Or the quartet and duets between John Bruce, Ross Hunter, Marnie Yule and Cathy Geddie in The Men Who Talk and the Women Who Pretend to Listen, which reflect its deeply jaundiced, but nicely nuanced, look at the tradeoff between economic needs and intellectual desires.

It’s not just the duets which work, however. After a thoroughly sweet dialogue between Ailsa Ferguson and Michael Barker in The Lasagne Incident, Ferguson hits every kind of note correctly in the ensuing triumphant solo. Later, Caitlin Davis is the epitome of maudlin defeatism in the country-tinged Always the Bridesmaid.

clarity and nuance

Then there is Fraser Shand as a husband of many years in Should I Be Less In Love With You? who brings a heart-felt antidote to all the cynicism – delivered with both clarity and nuance. Or Anne Mackie’s cringe-making heart-breaking honesty in the over-sharing of a new divorcee in The First Dating Video of Rose Ritz.

On a technical level Room 29 will need to sort out the compromise between file size and visual clarity for future productions, as constant buffering is a serious impediment to enjoyment. But if that does occur, let them know ASAP, as their technical wizzes do have a fix.

Otherwise, there is plenty here to love in a production that might not be perfect, but shouldn’t change. It’s only online until 7.29pm tonight, Saturday 1 August, so get in there now!

Running time: One hour 45 minutes (including a short interval)
Online 7.30 Fri 31 July – 7.29, Saturday 1 August 2020.
Tickets and details: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk.

The company

ENDS

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