Loneliness, divorce, and heartache

If someone could bottle up the awkwardness that one experiences on a first date, stir in some melody, and garnish it with the realization that love, dating, and marriage don’t always equate to happiness, you’d get I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. The show is currently being performed at the Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret in Theater Square after having just finished a 12-year run in New York City, making it the second-longest running musical in Off-Broadway history, next to The Fantasticks.

With its honest glance into the nuances of singledom, marriage, and divorce, I Love You ... Now Change could arguably be for the stage what Sex and the City was for television. However, where HBO ups the raunchy factor, I Love You ... Now Change keeps all of its jokes very PG. Songs like “Tear Jerk,” a synopsis of what goes on in a guy’s head when the girl chooses a chick flick for the first date, to “He Called Me,” one woman’s lament over never receiving a phone call on time from her man, are very stereotypical dating situations. Perhaps it is because of our generation’s exposure to sex that we have been too numbed to truly appreciate subtle humor, but I kept waiting for the book and lyrics (by Joe DiPietro) to push the boundaries into (dare I say it) Samantha Jones territory.

The two-act show is comprised of about 20 vignettes, with different characters and situations being played by a four-player company of two men and two women. The cast, made up of all native Pittsburghers, did an excellent job of believably taking on different roles and ages in each scene. In particular, Joseph Domencic, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon, was hilarious singing “The Marriage Tango” — one couple’s quest for sex after a day and night of putting away toys, paying the mortgage, and laying the kids to sleep. His vocal timbre far outshined those of the other cast members.

The vignette format of the play, as well as the small cast, fit the intimate setting of the dinner cabaret. If you plan on bringing a date to the show, realize that you will be sitting at the same, very small table as another couple, so be prepared to bump knees. The food is priced $8 to $22 and is very good. Appetizers, entrees, desserts, and drinks are available to be served during the performance, but try to get there a bit early to order so as not to bother your neighbor when your food arrives in the middle of the first scene.

Where most musical theater follows the standard saccharine “happily ever after” design, I Love You ... Now Change was contrasting to these shows in its cynical and pessimistic presentation of the trials and tribulations of finding that special someone. Even though the last two songs, “Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love With You?” and “I Can Live with That,” offered a glimpse of hope, it was truly the only sliver of optimism in the entire show. I couldn’t help but look around at the mostly middle- and older-aged audience members who were politely chuckling at the sexless marriage, soul-crushing divorces, and marital bickering that I Love You ... Now Change was describing and wondering what would have been different if they had never walked down that aisle.