Ah. Romantic relationships, aren’t they wonderful? Well, they can be, but more often than not, they usually provide the subject matter for most of the humorous stories told at dinner parties whenever you’re trying to get a chuckle out of your friends. Sometimes these relationships can cause you to experience such unfathomable joy that cannot be squelched, while at other times, they have the propensity to figuratively rip your heart to shreds. Such is the complex dynamic of romance in all of its forms. This last weekend I had the privilege to see the Newtowne Players’ newest production that delves into this very subject in such a thoughtful, but mostly lighthearted way.
This musical will at times have you laughing at its absurdity, melting over its sweetness, and becoming emotional over its depth.
At its core, this show is an ensemble piece that utilizes a rather expansive range of characters and their various stories in order to expound upon an overarching theme (in this case romantic relationships). While none of the scenes have any character or story continuity, the show as a whole does have a story arc. It begins with the stereotypical woes of the first date and ends with what ultimately comes at the end of a lifelong relationship. This musical will at times have you laughing at its absurdity, melting over its sweetness, and becoming emotional over its depth.
I believe the most impressive part of this show was just how well its ensemble worked together (only comprised of four actors!) to tell a multitude of its varying narratives. The ensemble is comprised of Emily Quade, Sarah Pollard, Chad Mildenstein, and Neil Compton. While each of these four actors truly enthralled me with their earnest dedication to their performances, there were two actors in particular that absolutely stunned me with their talented portrayals: Sarah Pollard and Neil Compton.
Sarah Pollard was utterly fantastic in this show. I recall seeing her perform in Newtowne’s summer production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and wanting to see her really get to utilize all of the talents that she possesses with a larger role. My wish was apparently heard by the community theatre gods and, subsequently, granted. Pollard embodies, count it, fourteen roles in this show! The insane thing is that she was able to imbue each role with its own truth, mannerisms, and personality. On top of that, Pollard is a fantastic singer and has a wonderful speaking vocal cadence. At certain points during the show, she would hit these magical notes that I swear awakened something wonderful in my spirit. When her voice is given the chance, it truly has a soulful quality to it. My favorite character that she played was Muriel near the end of the show. Having lived in a city myself with an older, at times quirky, landlady, I felt that she brought a refreshing realism to that particular role.
Neil Compton is a force in his own right. This actor has such an unreal commanding stage presence and effortless comedic timing. He had me dying in my seat from side splitting laughter. His two roles in this show that I found to be of particular note was the man in the movie theater scene and the incarcerated inmate (I can’t seem to remember either of their names, so feel free to blame my mom’s brain on that one). The abrasive nature of both characters was authentically played by Compton in such a way that I hope that he’s pursued theatre in a professional capacity at some point in his life. Seriously, this actor is immensely talented. I suspected this back when I first saw him perform in “A Suessified Christmas Carol” this last December, and this performance only confirmed my suspicions. On top of that, his singing voice hit several notes that lit all of the happy centers of my brain up like a multicolored southern Christmas tree (the first time I ever experienced this phenomenon was when Christian Borle sang in Legally Blonde the Musical. If you’ve never experienced this feeling, you’re missing out).
Moving onto the technical side of this production, I truly enjoyed the set design as done by Chris Maulden. It was deceptively simple with its one stagnantly constant piece being a brick wall backdrop. However, as the show progressed, Maulden did a wonderful job of really transforming the stage into the particular setting of each scene through efficient usage of minimal set pieces (ie: a dinner table or a couch). I appreciate how seamless the set changes were and the dual level set he created for this production. It was nice to have the musicians a level higher than where the actors performed because it allowed the music to accent the show, instead of distracting you the entire time (yeah, I’m looking at you, Broadway’s Chicago).
The lighting as designed by Regina Richardson, sound as designed by Timothy Joyce, and costumes as designed by Marie Waltrip all gave this production a sense of being well rounded. A particular lighting moment that I loved was the opening and closing sequences where all four of the actors were bathed in white light from above. It was beautiful and had an ethereal quality to it. The sound was adequate in this show and the cues were all done at appropriate times. As usual with this theatre company, I occasionally found myself struggling to hear an actor’s line, but that’s to be expected with hanging microphones. Finally, I enjoyed the costuming choices that Waltrip made. My favorite one was the costume change that Compton made from an orange inmate jumpsuit to a clergyman’s robes. It was done with flair onstage with full lighting and was a really fun creative choice.
Rounding out the technical aspects, this show was directed by Stacey Park. Her personal investment in this show’s source material was palpable in the way she designed the scenes so that they correlated to their intended emotional theme. If a scene was meant to be funny, it was. Awkward, definitely. And so the list goes on. I also appreciated how she tried to bring this musical into the 21st century. Something to keep in mind about this particular source material is that it was originally produced in 1996. Because of that, its gender stereotyping feels a bit outdated at times. Seemingly aware of this, Park did a wonderful job at viewing each scene through the lens of the time period that the show was created, while also keeping it reasonably relevant for today’s audience. My only complaint in regards to the direction of this show is that at times the pacing of the dialogue felt slightly rushed in certain scenes. Otherwise, I really enjoyed Park’s work on this production.
I would recommend this show for just about anyone, as long as they are an adult. It’s possible that some older teenagers might enjoy the show, but honestly, the stories would probably seem irrelevant to anyone who is not an adult. Along with that, the content of this show can wade into more mature waters at times. That being said, I believe the show can be enjoyed by both younger and older adults. This could be a fun show to see for a date night or just a friends’ night out. So, what’re you waiting for, go buy a ticket to this immensely talented production before it ends.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: This show contains sexual situations, dialogue, and mature language. Recommended for 16+.
“I Love, You’re Perfect, Now Change” is currently playing at the Three Notch Theatre through Sunday, February 16th. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit their website here.