With Valentine’s Day in the air, The Engeman Theater’s latest production, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” makes for a great date night. It’s also a perfect way to celebrate “Singles Awareness Day” (February 15) by treating a friend to a fabulously fun night of theater.
With music by Jimmy Roberts and book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, this show is the second-longest-running off-Broadway musical, with the beloved classic “The Fantasticks” holding the number one spot.
This well-crafted comedy musical revue satirizes love with all its crazy manifestations. Set in modern times, this show unfolds in a series of unrelated vignettes and songs. Four multi-talented actors take on more than 40 roles. Act I focuses on the ups and downs of single life, culminating in a wonderful and wacky wedding scene. Act II deals with marriage, children, and dating during the Golden Years.
You would need help finding a more versatile or talented quartet of actors on any stage. Saturday’s opening night audience showed their appreciation for Danny Bernardy, Lauren Weinberg, Gina Naomi Baez, and understudy Matt DaSilva (stepping in for Jason Sweettooth Williams) by giving them a rousing standing ovation. Lauren Echausse is the understudy for the women roles.
Much of the success of this production belongs to John Simpkins’s outstanding choreography and precision-perfect direction. The comedic vignettes left the audience roaring with laughter, whereas the dramatic ones tugged at their heartstrings.
The main objection to the original 1996 production was how it only focused on heterosexual
romance encounters. In 2017, that issue was addressed when this off-Broadway classic was updated by the original creators and staged at the prestigious George Street Playhouse. One of the funniest scenes in the show features gay parents, both named Frank. DaSilva and Bernardy had the audience in stitches as these two over-the-top gay dads went on and on about parenthood and their baby, Frank Jr. When their friend, brilliantly portrayed by Weinberg, comments on how these two guys aren’t any fun anymore, Bernardy breaks into a riotous rap song, “The Baby’s Song,” reminiscing about his good old Eminem days. Bernardy displayed his phenomenal physical comedy abilities and stellar vocals during this high-energy number.
Some of my favorite scenes featured the entire company. The actors’ easy onstage chemistry made the various couple combinations a joy to behold. The audience broke out in spontaneous laughter when the company belted out the song “A Picture of His Penis,” a spoof on men and what they think women want. In Act 11, one of the show’s highlights featured the whole company in a laugh-a-minute scene entitled “The Family that Drives Together,” where the actors race around on wheeled seats. The song “On the Highway of Love” is side-splittingly funny, with a series of one-liners comprising the lyrics.
This show also has many poignant moments, such as the scene called “Funerals are for Dating,” where two spry seniors meet in a funeral home and engage in a heartwarming flirtation. Kudos to Baez and Bernardy for their spot-on, but not stereotypical, portrayal of two older people who are still young at heart. Their dance number during “I Can Live with That” was another highlight of the show.
Portraying a long-time married man, Matt DaSilva delivered a beautiful rendition of the ballad, “Shouldn’t I be Less in Love with You.”
Lauren Weinberg gave a moving performance and showcased her powerhouse vocals during her solo, “I Will Be Loved Tonight.” Her noteworthy comedic acting talents were displayed during the scene “The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz.”
Gina Naomi Baez, dressed in a godawful bridesmaid gown with its requisite matching shoes, stole the show when she performed the Country-Western tune “Always a Bridesmaid.”
Kyle Dixon outdid himself with an eye-catching set, and a big round of applause goes out to Dustin Cross for his innovative costume designs, which allowed for the many rapid costume changes.
Engaging, evocative, and entertaining, Engeman’s “I Love You, Your Perfect, Now Change” is a welcomed mid-winter distraction guaranteed to tickle your funny bone and warm your heart!
Content Warning: This show contains adult themes and language and may not be appropriate for all audiences. The show runs now through March 3, 2024. Tickets may be purchased by calling 631-261-2900, in-person at the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport, or by visiting their website: www.engemantheater.com.