Love. It can be exciting and new, welcoming you aboard, even expecting you. It can be life’s sweetest reward, an open smile on a friendly shore. Love can also hurt, scar and wound. It can be a flame that burns you when it’s hot. Love sometimes stinks, yeah, yeah. Love can even kill.
But hey, it’s the only game in town this side of the hermit-in-a-cave-atop-the-mountain lifestyle, so most of us look for it, if often in all the wrong places. The eternally exhilarating, often exasperating quest for love forms the basis for the vast majority of art, theater included. It’s no surprise then that an ode to all things dating and mating, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, is one of the longest-running off-Broadway musicals in history.
Given that it premiered in 1996, the show is getting a little long in the tooth. Rather than treat it like a holy relic and leave it unchanged as some sort of historical snapshot of love in the 1990s, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change has been modernized with a shiny, spiffy, 21st-century makeover. So even if you’ve seen it before you’ll experience new vignettes and updated references this time around. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Voodoo Donuts and dick pics are just a few of the zeitgeisty tidbits sure to please the younger crowd in particular.
One of the most successful examples of nouveau topical material takes the audience on a first Tinder date. Because both the man and the woman are “busy, busy, busy,” they agree to skip the first date and all of its uncomfortable uncertainty. That quickly leads to skipping the second date, and the third and so on until our right-swipers have traveled at warp speed through their entire relationship. The result is both riotously funny and more than a little bittersweet.
Other notable scenes include: a musical back-and-forth as a man and a woman get ready for their date, another date in which the participants voice their insecurities at not being the “babes” and “studs” they feel they need to be to net that special someone, a Scared Straight-style intervention, the challenges of keeping the romantic spark lit after a few kids have turned husband and wife into mom and dad, and a woman recording her first attempt at video dating. That last one — starring Anne Terze-Schwarz — rang so wistfully true and had the audience so rapt that at one point the theater became quiet enough that you could actually hear the air conditioning blowing in the background. How often does that happen? Let me tell you, hardly ever.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change features a cast of just four actors, two men and two women, so there’s a lot riding on those eight shoulders. Heather Marie Doris, Bob Hoppe, Brian Jackson and Anne Terze-Schwarz aren’t just up to the task; they deliver dozens of diverse, finely delineated characters and scores of laughs. While it is Terze-Schwarz’s first sojourn onto the BDT Stage stage, Doris, Hoppe and Jackson have trod these boards many times before. Hoppe and Jackson tend to be cast in supporting roles, and it was a great pleasure to see these two versatile, assured and charming actors take the lead for a change.
From the paintings that adorn the stage, paintings that showcase the actual cast, to the blocking and lighting, to the decision to have the BDT Stage orchestra, which is usually relegated to a band room and thus hidden from view, onstage for the entire performance, director Seth Caikoswki has made nothing but good choices. His I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is certain to resonate with people of all ages regardless of their current relationship status. It is a supremely human show with heart and cheekiness to spare.
You’re going to love I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, and after all, all you need is love.
On the Bill: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, www.bdtstage.com, $45 and up. Through Nov. 3