The Cameo Theater’s I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! is a lighthearted, unpretentious bit of musical theater whose primary purpose is to entertain, and that it does.
I can’t say the set design, with its swirly-tailed hearts on a purple background, was my favorite, but then I’ve never been a fan of hearts not on the bellies of Care Bears, and this detail is certainly trumped by the cast’s outstanding vocal and acting performance. The truly important environment is that of the Cameo itself, a casual joint where drinks are served, and — at least on opening night — nobody holds back a laugh, squeal, or swear. (OK, the last one might’ve just been me. All I have to say is “banana hammock.”)
I Love You is a series of irreverent vignettes, mostly musical, sequenced in the order in which relationships often develop: dating, marriage, kids, empty nest-ness, widow/erhood. (No divorces or same-sex couples here, sorry.) While some of the themes and lyrics are prosaic (wait, he won’t ask for directions?), the fact is, of course, that many clichés are rooted in truth, and even the most erudite among you should find yourselves touched at some moment. (Except by the third number, “The Lasagna Incident,” which is like a codependent Amy Grant song.) I think we’ve all begrudgingly cried during a chick-flick.
A television screen to the left of the stage announces the titles of the tunes/skits, just in case you weren’t keeping up in your program. As a transition, it’s sort of an uninventive device that would be annoying and lazy-feeling if the performance as a whole wasn’t so winning. It’s like, Yeah, uh-huh, we had more important things to do, like perfect the actors’ comic timing. Like turn four rolling chairs into a car. This is the kind of show where if the audience is having fun, then the performers and producers have done their jobs, and we were certainly having fun on Friday night — although it must be said that, at least for me, things slowed down in the second act.
Becky King has a Rachel-Dratch-like ability to shapeshift between normal human and shrunken, gawky nerd. Lindsey Williams is at her best when she’s playing against type, as the church-lady-ish Ms. Arthur Wifewood in “Scared Straight.” David Alford has a great strong-naïve combo going on, which he subverts occasionally, and F. Michael Zaller — also the director, is just a total committed pro, what else can I say?
Moreover, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! is one of the strongest collective vocal performances I’ve seen in San Antonio. (Those in the know can hold their jokes about my “aversion” to musical theater, please.) It seems like there’s always one cast member who’s distractingly under par, and though the music for I Love You might not be considered the most challenging in terms of range, there is no weakest link among the four performers, a significant factor in the success or failure of the show.
Zaller has done an excellent job localizing I Love You. The overbearing parents of one sketch aren’t just your typical we’re-screwed-for-grandkids folks, they’re also Spurs fans. The absolute funniest vignette, about a law firm that will fight for your rights (in bed), features a firm called Wayne, Wright, Masters & Johnson.
The beauty of I Love You’s book is that (again, with the exception of song three), just as things get a little too cheesy for comfort, the snark sets in, and the performers have also discovered many a visual gag to aid in the balancing act. No, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! is not an extraordinary work of high art, but it never claimed to be. So how about just accepting it for the funny, flawed, wonderfully performed play that it is? I can only imagine how good it looks with beer goggles. •
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!
8pm Thu & Sat
Through Feb. 24
1123 E. Commerce