The 1996 off-Broadway musical I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change offers two and a half hours of songs and skits about the stages and vicissitudes of being men and women together and apart. It's inoffensive to the point of bland, filled with stereotypes and cliches, very few really fresh laugh lines. But, as done at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre through Sept. 15, it has a couple of memorable moments created through the sheer force of will by the four very talented and charming singer/actors — Amanda Downey, Lucas Alifano, Georgia Guy and Robby May.
The show would perhaps appeal to the 18-to-35 set whose members are either going through or approaching the familiar round of dating, marriage, kids and divorce. But it's pretty much been-there-heard-that to the mature patron, including the Show Palace Sunday matinee crowd that gave the show a tepid reception, though there appeared to be genuine appreciation for the players themselves.
Perhaps the second number inadvertently foretold the whole show, when blind daters Stan (a vocally gifted May) and Pat (a delightful Guy) skip through all the stages of courtship — first date, second date, awkward sex, first argument, breakup — in about seven minutes, then cut to the inevitable year-later meetup where they realize it wouldn't have worked out anyway, in Not Tonight, I'm Busy, Busy, Busy. That's sort of the feeling you get as you watch this show: Let's skip to the chase, or at least to something that isn't so obvious.
The scenes then glide through the familiar women who can't find a decent guy (Single Man Drought); girls who drag their dates to chick flicks (Tear Jerk); the lonely woman settling for a one-night stand (I Will Be Loved Tonight); pushy parents (Hey There, Single Gal/Guy) who only want a grandchild; the girl thrilled that some fellow called her back (He Called Me); the most original vignette of the evening, a singles club meetup in Attica Prison led by a serial killer (Scared Straight) determined to make matches; and a wedding (Second Thoughts) to wrap up the first act.
As in life, the second act gets somewhat better, when Guy does Always a Bridesmaid in broad gestures and southern accent, with a clever touch provided by costume designer Darlene Widner — arguably, the most memorable skit of the show. And Alifano does a fine rendition of the most touching song in the score, the poignant Shouldn't I Be Less in Love with You?, a comment on a long marriage, and is joined by Downey as two sweet, elderly people waiting for a funeral service and willing to settle for what's available in I Can Live with That. Ah, if only songwriters Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts had offered more such insightful perspectives.
As always, Tom Hansen's set design works like a well-oiled clock, with color washes and set pieces that glide in and out without a blip. The two-piece musical accompaniment by pianist Mark Anthony Jelks and violinist Virginia Lamboley show what a positive difference live music can make to the ebb and flow of a musical.
The summer special buffet was a tad heartier than that offered with Barefoot in the Park — a Caesar salad and a tossed salad, plus chopped beets — though the quality of the entrees was not what it used to be (overcooked veggies, bland white rice, tough pork roast, pollock instead of scrod, breaded chicken with barbecue sauce). Significantly, the curtain speech didn't include the usual "Did you enjoy your meal?" nor did the chef make the traditional spotlight appearance for a bow. They know, they know.