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Lasagna and Condoms

ACE's I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change puts Cupid on the hot seat
Ella Green, Brent Anderson and Eric Blanchard in Ace’s <i>I love you, you’re perfect, now change
Ella Green, Brent Anderson and Eric Blanchard in Ace’s <i>I love you, you’re perfect, now change

Written by Joe DiPietro with music by Jimmy Roberts, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a series of skit-like vignettes punctuated by songs loosely hung around themes of love, sex, relationships and marriage. First performed Off-Broadway in 1996, the popular and award-winning musical is on now at Actor’s Cabaret under the direction of Anthony Krall.

Without much of a plot but familiar to anyone who’s been in love, lonely, committed or just plain horny, I Love You takes a ribald and slightly jaundiced but generally warm-hearted look at the human need for connection and the lengths we all go to achieve it.

“Who is this woman talking?” someone on a first date asks in an aside, wondering why we lie to be liked. And elsewhere, a character says first dates are based on blind hope, imploring her prospective mate to fast-forward right to the sex.

Later, love is called an “ambitious and delicious curse.” A particularly funny bit is about a law firm offering to sue anyone’s disappointing sex partner.

Musically, I Love You is likeable but largely forgettable, alternating between Disney-era Elton John and Little Shop of Horrors. The cast’s voices are uneven but roundly capable; each performer charms in her own way, with highlights coming from actresses India Potter and Ashley Apelzin in particular.

It’s impossible not to smile as a middle-aged married couple played by Brent Anderson and Jane Griffin Byrd tango, singing uproariously: “We’re married! And we’re gonna have sex!” Later, Anderson sweetly serenades Byrd, reminding himself that, despite temptation, the pay-off of long-term commitment has been worth it.

I can’t say the show offers many groundbreaking insights into the human condition. Nicely, modern dating is referenced (meeting partners online, for example) but the show has real risk of showing its age: The dating world has changed a lot since 1996. Several punchlines alternate between groaner and predictable: Men won’t ask directions, women don’t like football, men like action movies, women like to shop.

With recent statistics showing the cultural cachet of cars and driving diminishing amongst teens and millennials, I wonder how well a skit about a father and the open road went over for the young couples in the crowd. 

There is, however, always truth in old jokes, and the theme of losing oneself to a partner or parenthood will never go away. There’s also real joy and value in shared misery — laughing despite oneself as all our dirty laundry and uncomfortable peccadillos are writ large across a stage.

The show is a fun, entertaining diversion with enough in it for those at any stage in their life: from singles and passionate young couples to gray-feathered lovebirds and beyond.

Love is a certain kind of insanity, but without it what a dull world it would be.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change runs now through May 21 at Actor’s Cabaret of Eugene; $16-$48.95 with dinner options, tickets at 541-683-4368 or actorscabaret.org.