Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Theater review: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change at Theatre Three in Dallas
The truthful portrayal of all these roles showed great talent.
Theatre Three's production of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (playing through February 19) was hilarious. In a weekend when Bert Kreischer performed at the Addison Improv, I Love You... was the funniest thing I saw. If you're familiar with "The Machine," you know what a compliment that is.
Walking into the Theatre Too space, I was instantly transported to my college home, a small black box space ideal for intimate productions. Predominantly black, the walls and floor were painted with a multi-color circles and hearts design painted by David Walsh. The whimsical look of the design and the light, flowery colors against the dark backdrop said a lot about the style of I Love You... It was technically simple but still bright and fun.
The limited performance space and large number of scenes made it necessary for set pieces to be sparse and move quickly. The best thing about this feature was that it demonstrated how unnecessary large, elaborate sets are for a good show. How many times have we seen productions where Henry Higgins' study, or the Brewster house, was the star of the show?
I couldn't help but notice the light plot. At six foot four inches, the lights were less than a foot above my head. At first it appeared very busy and overkill for the little space. However, with all the moving around of the actors and excellent use of the stage, the large quantity of lights was necessary.
The best technical aspect of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change was the costumes. Gillian Salerno-Rebic had a great eye for detail. I first became aware of the costume design when I noticed the changing hair styles of Alexandra Valle. In shows where actors play multiple roles, it's easy to choose a single, generic hairstyle. Hairstyle changes slow down quick costume changes and can go unnoticed. The way the cast and crew made them work was excellent.
Also, costumes were used effectively for comedic effect. Two of the biggest laughs in the show were due to a costume change by Sonny Franks when he changed from a mass murdering lunatic to a priest between scenes, and Jason Villareal, when he chose a silly superhero costume to seduce his wife. The unexpected change in both instances stopped the show with laughter for a few moments.
I also must mention the costumes in the final scene. The actors were dressed in matching black and white colors but each had their own style; one of the most effective uses of color and design I have ever seen. Color was also well used in the "Scared to Marriage" scene at Attica State Penitentiary where the main focus and lively characters of the scene were in bright colors while the boring, tertiary characters were both left in grey, so as to be less noticed.
But all of this would be wasted if not for the astounding performances in I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. As mentioned before, Terry Dobson made excellent use of the entire performance area, having actors enter and exit from four different directions and playing in multiple areas of the stage simultaneously. He also had a great sense of comedy with sight gags, a wonderfully frenetic pace, and hilarious characters which enthralled the audience for the entire evening.
Speaking of hilarious characters, none were better than the previously noted mass murdering lunatic played by Sonny Franks. Franks portrayal of this character was nothing less than brilliant. The twitchy, spastic movements, the crazed facial expressions and wildly fluctuating speech all added up to a character that would make Al Pacino jealous and rivaled some of the greatest comedic performances ever captured on film.
Franks was also given the opportunity, in the song "Always a Bridesmaid," to show off his slide guitar playing skills which was a welcome surprise and quite impressive. A veteran, professional actor, Sonny Franks was giving the performance of a lifetime in I Love You... and should not be missed.
All of the actors in I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change had exceptional singing voices. The musical performances were practically flawless. Pamela Holcomb-McLain did an excellent job preparing the actors for their roles.
The best combination of music and performance came in "Hey There Single Guy/Gal." The vitriol used to convey the disappointed feelings of a jilted set of hopeful in-laws, played by Sonny Franks and Jenny Thurman, made the song land with great power, like a brutal beating. The audience truly got the sense of how hurt Franks and Thurman were by news of their son's break-up with his girlfriend. And, as with all other scenarios in the show, the emotions were blown to comedic proportions.
Jenny Thurman showed great character range. Her roles ranged from a lamenting bridesmaid to a busy woman with no time for the dating game, and finally an aged woman looking for companionship after the death of her husband. The truthful portrayal of all these roles showed great talent.
Jason Villareal and Alexandra Valle also showed off their characterization abilities by playing an uber-nerdy, socially awkward pair; a couple annoying hyperactive children; and an under-sexed, hormonally charged married-with-children couple. Villarreal also displayed his softer side in the more sentimental "Shouldn't I Be Less in Love." Valle astounded the crowd with her dynamic performance in the neurotic monologue of a woman re-entering the dating pool after her husband left her, "The Very First Dating Monologue of Rose Ritz."
Unfortunately I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change was not for everybody. The lady seated next to me was actually heard to mutter, "I am not amused." However, her negativity was drowned out by the near constant raucous laughter from the rest of the audience. As the saying goes, "It's funny because it's true." We could all identify with at least some of the situations presented in the show as the actors worked their way through dating, love, marriage, and beyond. The masterful performances of each actor kept the audience howling with laughter throughout the show. In a small venue like Theatre Too, performances will sell out quickly. Do not be left out. See this show.
Pegasus News Content partner - John Garcia's The Column
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