I wasn’t going to review this one. I have a stinking cold, paracetamol and whisky to the fore, and dipped my toes into it when dress rehearsal audience were sparse. Means I did not have to sit close to anyone. Suits most folks who surprisingly sniff at my incisive opinions. And besides, spoiler alert, I go to bed with the director. Seems appropriate for I love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Sex, or the lack of it, drives this episodic piece. More of a revue than a full blown narrative story, diverse relationships eclipsing developing character, it strikes me as the American musical version of our own Alan Ayckbourn’s Confusions. He’s a national treasure, no idea if the creators of this are, but they tell the same coruscating story. Love denied, love consummated, love disappointed. Man and woman entwined til death in the dance that both teases and consumes. It’s sharp, it’s sassy, and it’s very straight and narrow. As it says, or sings, at the opening, this is man and woman and God created nothing else. Variations on the theme of the human condition are not an option.
It mattered not a jot. This show is pure fun. Rich in sexual politics a variety of characters in a variety of short scenes effortlessly progress from first tentative date to poignant waiting at the cemetery gates. And in between the skilled sextet of actors, never a critical sniff of a weak link, paint rich pictures of dreadful dinner dates, desperate singles, besotted new parents, and family outings. Every American’s personal and private dream and nightmare writ large for a smidgeon of entertainment and a dollop of recognition. Given such a show, nineteen short scenes, you naturally cherry pick your favourites. Two of them came early. Steve Peters (Stan) and Emma Orr (Pat) gave us a skilled representation of speed dating taken to absurdity in Busy,Busy,Busy, and Richard Alexander (Jason) and Jo Yirrell (Julie) were beautifully buttoned up folk in A Stud and a Babe. The critic in me smugly notes that I knew that, on paper, this was a good cast and this early promise underlines it. But then I remember that, on paper, a few Cheltenham Gold Cups are crackers. But horses run on turf and actors thrive on good scripts and astute direction. Early hopes are often dashed.
They weren’t. Okay I was not a big fan of Satisfaction Guaranteed, over aggressive Americanism, and Waiting left me a bit nonplussed. I got the point of the latter; one partner always waiting for the other, but one of the trio desperate for a pee seemed a joke shoe horned in for no particular purpose. Take nothing away from the incontinent Jenna Ryder-Oliver, superb in everything she did, but this scene did not illuminate the frailties of relationships like most of the others. Perhaps, showing my age, I just do not like lavatory jokes. But these are small points. So many of the quickly rolled out scenes were just hilariously fun and brilliantly sung with never a false accent in sight. Tear Jerk, Wedding Day, and The Baby Song, all zinged for different reasons. Jo Yirrell's (Jane) eyes enraptured in filmic schmaltz, Emma Orr’s Oscar winning bridesmaid dress, fantastically awful, and John O’Leary giving thanks for his sperm to an increasingly uncomfortable Steve Peters all struck theatrical gold.
A good night at the theatre. In spite of colds, me, and the odd technical glitch, them. It is allowed at a dress rehearsal. I reckon all of this impressive cast have got at least one mention in the above. Hope so, they deserve it for consummate ensemble playing. But a couple of bits deserve more. Emma Orr’s monologue in Rose Ritz’s Dating Video and Jenna Ryder-Oliver’s Muriel in Funerals are for Dating gave us touches of acting of the highest class. And in a cast this good that is saying something. Emily Wright (Piano) and Paul Costin (Violin) gave impressive accompaniment which rarely intruded and invariably enhanced and counterpointed the drama. Beth Thomas (Musical Director) and Frances Hall (Director) can be justifiably proud of their latest creation at Dunstable Rep. For the record I only go to bed with one of them. Roy Hall.