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Monday, April 24, 2017

Nobody's Perfect

During his acceptance speech at the 2016 Tony Awards, Lin-Manuel Miranda recited a sonnet he’d written that said in part, “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.” Despite its rather arch title, the current Round Barn musical, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” might be better described by Miranda’s poem.

In twenty sketches spanning two acts and a couple of hours cast members Rory Dunn, Josey Miller, Lauren Morgan, and Ryan Schisler portray love in all its twists and turns, in success and failure, and as experienced in the several different ages of life. The quick costume changes demonstrate the clear design of Costumer Ashley Alverth, helping to delineate the many characters played by the four, and the actors themselves help us quickly realize the only thing the many scenes have in common is the theme of love.

There’s an almost mystical aspect to the opening and closing when the actors, dressed in awe-inspiring druidical robes celebrate the divine and all too human facets of love from the beginning of time.

Almost immediately we are shown two paradoxes -- Rory Dunn and Josey Miller seem like they’re made for each other, but having been brought together by a dating service they talk themselves through and out of the many twists and turns of the relationship they never have.

That’s followed by the revenge of the geeks -- Ryan Schisler and Lauren Morgan seem to have been put together out of spare parts, yet somehow despite their obvious incompatibility, things click.
The four conspire together in the cynical “Men Who Talk and the Women Who Pretend They’re Listening,” as four (or is it six or eight) individuals go through the motions of pretending they’re enjoying each other’s company because they’re not sure they’ve got other options.

One of my favorite scenes was “I’ll Call You Soon (Yeah, RIght)” when an unseen young man’s phone call leads to the four actors filling the stage with what feels like a full production number.

The whole first act, which ends with marriage, seems to prove the observation of my first college drama teacher, Linda DeVries, who way back in the early seventies told us that in Shakespeare’s comedies Love is a sickness that is only cured by marriage.

Perhaps that’s why Act Two is the stronger part of the play, when love passes the test of time and endures. I was especially impressed by: Josey Miller’s tour de force in “Always a Bridesmaid,” as she recounts the many failed marriages whose start she witnessed just a few feet from the altar; Ryan Schisler’s and Laren Morgan’s desperate attempt at carving out time to let the sparks fly within the confines of a household that included kids, pets, and a mother-in-law (“Marriage Tango”); and Rory Dunn’s star turn as the Husband who lives through his car in “On the Highway of Love,” and his duet with Miller closer to the ending of life in “I Can Live With That.”

My favorite moment was Schisler’s understated but satisfying defense of love that has lasted decades despite the dissolution of so many marriages around him, in the song “Shouldn’t I Be Less In Love With You?” personifying Shakespeare’s words (him again) that “Love varies not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom.”

Indeed, if I can get biblical, the second act proved the truth of the words, “…love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave.” (Song of Songs 8:6)

Director/Choreographer Amber Burgess deserves a lot of the credit for creating a clear arc from chaos towards order in this collection of sometimes uneven parts, and crafting a thoughtfully fun show from so many disparate ingredients. And let’s not forget -- the accompaniment was live and lively, featuring the piano magic of Music Director Paul Rigano and the violin expertise of Burgess.

I wonder if the title ought to have been simply, “I Love You.” Nobody’s perfect, and for the most part, there’s no changing each other. We are who we are, and that’s okay.

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