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Issue Date: May 2004 Issue


The Foreplay's The Thing

Dating, marriage and sex. You bet there's danger ahead. But as our reviewer and his wife discover, there are also a lot of laughs -- and a few poignant moments -- in the Hanna Theatre production of "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change."

So I was asked to review a musical about love and sex.

After 15 years of marriage, this was not that different from asking me to give my opinion on Kraft macaroni and cheese: "It's been a while, but from what I remember, I think I like it."

And so, as my wife and I walked toward the Hanna Theatre to see "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," I said to her, "I'm not sure I'm the right person to be doing this. First of all, I've never really reviewed anything before. And then, they want me to weave your thoughts into the story. Plus, I don't think I'll be able to relate to it. I've heard this is for couples who are dating. We're old married people."

"Old is a state of mind," she said.

"No, old is hair growing out of your ears and 10-year-old kids calling you Mister. I mean, when we were dating, I was still wearing parachute pants."

"And despite that, I still loved you," she said.

"What were you thinking?" I asked.

"I was thinking I needed to buy you a pair of jeans."

We stepped into the lobby, then spent a moment looking at the poster promoting the show.

"So I have to ask you a question," she said. "Do you think I've tried to change you?"

"Not at all," I replied. "You've always accepted me for my faults. And no matter how dumb I am or how lost I appear to be, you've always given me your unconditional love."

"Believe me, you're dumb and lost a lot," she quipped.

"I've seen some of my friends turn into completely different people after they get married," I said.

"I know," she agreed. "So many women fall in love with someone, then try to mold them into who they really want them to be. Before you know it, these guys are nothing more than pathetic lapdogs."

"I could never be with someone like that," I said.

"I agree, you're too strong of a person," she said. "I couldn't see you with someone like that." Then she said, "Here, hold my purse. I have to use the ladies' room."

As she walked away, I shouted, "While you're gone, should I have your lipstick opened and ready when you come out like I always do, Pookie-Wookie?"

The romantic musical comedy "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," which runs through July at Playhouse Square's Hanna Theatre, is a fun, wild ride through the trials and tribulations of relationships at any age. It's the Battle of the Sexes — and we get to see both sides of the fight. The four actors (two men and two women) are great as they change roles in a variety of unique skits. They keep the audience laughing and smiling as they navigate the landmines that populate the war zone of Man vs. Woman.

As we all sat and applauded at the end, I turned to my wife and asked, "Well, what did you think?"

"I liked it a lot. Very cute. And the songs were great."

"It was different than what I expected, actually," I said. "There's something in here anyone can relate to."

"I know exactly what you mean," she nodded. "Boy, I could really relate to the woman who kept getting more and more desperate after a series of really bad dates — and her song about how she used to have standards."

"Listen," I said. "I might be lost and dumb, but I know exactly what you mean by that."

Well thought out and surprising, the play follows the normal path of a relationship from dating to marriage and parenthood to the loss of a spouse.

Even the straightforward skits provide a nice twist. In one early scene, for example, a couple meets on a blind date. They both decide that, since first dates are so awkward, they should immediately skip to the second date. By the time they're done, they've discussed how their relationship will work over the next several years, including the eventual breakup.

Other skits are truly off the wall ... or on the bed. In one, a young couple lies in the sheets after making love. While the man is proud of his accomplishments, his girlfriend appears to be less than fulfilled. Suddenly, an attorney walks onstage — as if from a cheap cable-TV commercial — to help if "you're not sexually satisfied." Playing on male insecurities and pop culture's commercialism of sex, the scene — and the play itself — sings when harmonizing with the tension between what we think and how we act.

The next day, my wife walked into our office at home to see what I was doing.

"Oh, I'm just working on the review," I said.

"So, what are you saying?"

"Well, I'm trying to write about it in terms of our life," I said. "I mean, we were like every young couple they portrayed, weren't we? When we first met, we started out with so much nervous energy, excitement and wonder about each other. We knew we liked each other, but still, we thought, Was she the girl? Was he the guy?"

"And if he wasn't the guy, would there be another guy at the restaurant who might be the guy?" she added.

"You're not helping."

"Sorry," she said. "I don't know about you, but it brought back some great feelings for me."

I looked at her and smiled. "I just kept thinking through the whole thing about how good it felt to be your husband when we got married. I couldn't wait to get on a plane the day after our wedding and head off into the world as an official couple for the first time."

Then I reached over and held her hand. "Remember our honeymoon?" I asked.

"You mean the honeymoon where we went to Hawaii and made a very romantic, once-in-a-lifetime video that you taped a football game over?"

"It was an accident."

"You taped a football game over our honeymoon video," she repeated.

"If it's any consolation, my team won," I noted.

"You taped a football game over our honeymoon video."

"Hey, do you need me to hold your purse or get your lipstick ready or something, Pookie-Wookie?" I whimpered.

The Hanna Theatre's table-and-chair seating makes for a casual, relaxed experience, almost as if you're peeking in on someone else's life. And the fast pace of the show keeps people guessing. There's never a moment when you feel as if you've become so familiar with a scene that you start to lose interest.

That night, at dinner, I said, "I think I'm making some good progress on the review. But I really need some more thoughts from you. How did it make you feel about us?"

"Well, it made me realize how much time we spent on us when we were young," she said. "It's so easy to forget that, y'know?"

"I know. It just seemed like there was all this passion and focus on each other for so long. And that was the only thing that mattered."

She bowed her head and spoke in a hushed tone. "And then, God created children."

"And on the seventh day, the parents cleaned up from the previous six days' mess created by the children," I chimed in.

ÌThey just ... take over your life," she said. "And then, almost instantly, your relationship takes a sharp turn to the left and, before you know it, your relationship is about anything but the two of you."

"That was the point in the play I could really relate to," I agreed. "Especially the exhausted couple complaining about life. Money. Kids. Work. It's so hard to focus on each other because all your energy is spent.

"Please tell me we're not like the downtrodden couple in the play," I said.

"I don't think so," she replied. "I think we always try to find time for each other."

"Me, too," I said.

"Right."

"Right."

"Did you pay the gas bill?" she asked.

"Yeah. Did you clean the basement?"

"Uh huh. Did you get the E-check for the car?"

"Yep, did you make lunches for tomorrow?"

"Yes," she said.

"Good."

"Good."

"I love you," I said.

"I love you, too."

"Did you call the guy about the furnace?"

"I thought you were going to call the guy about the furnace."

 

Overall, I'd have to say: I Liked You a Lot, You're Pretty Darn Good, Don't Change Much. With the play's engaging dialogue and quirky songs, anyone who sees it can't help but walk away with a smile and a warm feeling about love and friendship, no matter whether you've just started dating, you're thinking about getting married or you've been around the block and back.

That night, in bed, I crawled under the covers and said, "Well, I'm almost done."

"Y'know, I never really thought about it like this before, but life really is funny," she began. "For the first 25 years, it's all about you. Then, for the next five, it's all about the two of you. Then, for the next 20, it's all not about you. And then, when the kids leave, it's all about you again."

"And then you have to work at making it about the two of you again, because it's been so long, you've forgotten," I observed.

"Exactly."

"It's like a big, giant circle," I said.

"You're right. Just like that big, giant, empty circle on the back of your head where hair used to be."

I snuggled up next to her.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"Well, all this talk about love and romance has got me feeling a bit, y'know ... romantic."

"Oh really?"

I snuggled up even closer.

"Aw, honey," she said, rubbing the big, giant, empty circle on my head. "I love you. You're perfect. Now go to sleep."


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