Western Playhouse’s rollicking production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” should connect with fans of “Seinfeld,” “Married with Children,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation” or just about any movie Woody Allen ever directed. It’s about nothing and everything. It’s witty and sophomoric. It’s outrageous yet heartfelt.
But, most importantly, the play takes an honest look at the loves of our lives — our wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends and dreamy crushes — and examines why we can’t freakin’ stand them.
“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” consists of 20 unrelated sketches ranging from about three to 10 minutes in length. The only tie between these vignettes are the awesome, awkward, awful, animated and amusing interactions between the two male cast members and their two female counterparts. More than anything, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” showcases the wide range of actors Leah Swank-Miller, Tee Quillin, Shaun Agnew and Jessica Elder-Agnew.
Picking the funniest scene in this musical comedy created by Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts proves to be a difficult task. Agnew and Swank-Miller stand out right away as two wheezy nerds with thick glasses who both wished they were more appealing. In “A Stud and a Babe,” he fantasizes about having bulging biceps, she dreams of a bigger bust and both crave a mere shred of confidence. Meanwhile, each of them dorkily dances with the kind of over-exaggerated moves that would make Ace Ventura envious.
Quillin puts both his tough and sensitive sides on display in “Tear Jerk.” Donning a leather jacket and tons of swagger, Quillin’s character allows his date to drag him to a chick flick at the local movie theater. As the brawny dude yearns to see “Jason with a chainsaw” make an appearance, he suddenly finds himself fighting back the tears. This skit earned lots of chuckles from the opening weekend audience.
The crowd’s female contingent showed its appreciation for Elder-Agnew’s performance in “Always a Bridesmaid,” a vignette in which she reflects on horrible men and horrible bridesmaid dresses — “gowns so grotesque that I groan,” she calls them. However, Elder-Agnew is at her best when her real-life husband joins her on stage in “Sex and the Married Couple.” In this number that features capes, feather boas, heart-brandished boxers and red panties, the pair amps themselves up for the rare sexual encounter while the kids are asleep. When Elder-Agnew asks her hubby how he pulled off the amazing feat of getting the kids to bed on time, he fesses up to a promise to take the little ones to Disneyland.
“I figured we’d wait a few months and tell ‘em it burned down,” says Agnew, channeling his surliest Al Bundy.
“Satisfaction Guaranteed” garnered the most belly laughs from the grown-ups in the audience last weekend. Much like “The Love Contract” from “Chappelle’s Show,” this faux commercial introduces a lawful agreement that guarantees any client sexual satisfaction or their money back. It’s a pretty zany scene. We’ll leave it at that.
But this play does more than touch on taboo laughs. Overbearing parents, dating rites and family car rides get their fair share of roasting as well. And skits like “The Lasagna Incident” and “Funerals are for Dating” both boast plenty of heartwarming moments that are brilliantly executed by all four actors. Swank-Miller even managed to drag a few sympathetic tears from the audience as she played a bumbling, broken, insecure and depressingly realistic divorcee recording a dating video in “The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz.”
If the truthful, clever comedy doesn’t entice you, maybe the music will. You’ll find a slew of wonderful four-part harmonies in this play, as well as some resounding solo performances by Agnew (“Shouldn’t I Be Less In Love With You?”) and Swank-Miller (“The Lasagna Incident”).
This review really only scratches the surface of what “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” has to offer. The comedic timing and variety of authentic characters alone make this the funniest play produced in St. Joseph in more than a year. And any play that addresses the debate over “football seconds” needs to be seen, wouldn’t you say?
Additional performances of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. July 27 and 28 at Missouri Western’s Potter Hall Theater. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.westernplayhouse.com.
— Shea Conner | STJOELIVE STAFF