L to R: Blair Irwin, Jay Davis, Justin Bott, Lindsey Frazier, Daniel Abrahamson and Steffi Didomenicantonio. Photo Credit: John Watson for Stage West Calgary
I Love You Because
September 5 – November 10, 2013
Given the ridiculously simplistic and predictable narrative recipe that forms the plot of Stage West’s latest musical, I Love You Because, it seems only fair that my review be crafted with as little creative effort and panache as the show itself. In this vein – the following are my thoughts on the production:
I disliked I Love You Because, because:
– Ryan Cunningham and Joshua Salzman’s story of two 20/ 30-something New Yorkers who have both recently been burned by love and come together, not to actually be a couple, but to either get over an ex or make their ex jealous is predictable to the extreme. When the audience knows from minute three of a production how the entire plot is going to unfold yet doesn’t care enough about the characters to happily anticipate the obvious – there’s a serious problem.
– Speaking of New York – apart from one song that mentions that they are in New York and one or two lines referring to the city that never sleeps – there is absolutely no conjuring of the vibe of the city or the personalities that reside in it. This play could have just has easily have taken place in the deep south or the mid-west and nothing would have changed. In other words – the feel of the play and the relation to its place is totally void of personality.
– The men in this production were fairly lackluster and not just because their lines were clichés and their characters one-dimensional. Daniel Abrahmson as leading man Austin, Jay Davis as his brother Jeff and Justin Bott as a barista/bartender/waiter may have had the pipes to carry the singing in this performance but their acting felt forced with try-hard timing that resulted in wooden and soul-less deliveries.
– Darcy Evans direction had actors playing so hard into the musical numbers that every word sounded obligatory as opposed to internalized and rushed instead of allowing the script to breathe – all this in order to hurry into the next song in a mechanical fashion.
I found some bright spots in I Love You Because, because:
– Scott Penner’s set design is gorgeous. A cross between every hipster boutique hotel lobby mixed with a Crate and Barrel floor model design, Penner’s multi-purpose set is as attractive as it is functional. Mid-century modern wooden bookshelves packed with designerly clutter right out of the pages of Dwell Magazine provide the backdrop of two apartments, a coffee-house and a dive bar. Free standing island shelves spin around to reveal slight differences in clutter arrangement to connote which space is which without taking away from the entire mood of the set.
– Steffi Didomenicantonio in the lead role of Marcy is cute as a button conjuring Liza Minnelli’s boho quirkiness as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, right down to the dark-haired pixie cut of her hair. She is the only performer in the cast able to bring real personality to her role elevating it somewhat beyond the severe constraints of the hackneyed script. Add on her strong voice which is delightful to listen to in all its musical forms and at least we had one character that roused us marginally from our apathy.
– Darcy Evans clever choreography in the bitter break up number “What Do We Do It For” finally injects some life into the production with the routine’s energy and visual interest. There’s a reason this number gets the biggest applause.
I have nothing more to say about I Love You Because, because:
Even with a few bright spots, I found myself so drowned in predictability and frustrated by a production that lacked excitement or originality that I had checked out mentally long before the climax we knew was coming. Early in the first act, Austin blabs on about his ex-girlfriend to Marcy, all the while claiming not to want to talk about it. I certainly have nothing to blab about when it comes to I Love You Because, but unlike Austin, I’m so over this tedious script and production that I truly don’t want to talk about it any further.
For musical lovers – There is no doubt that the cast voices in this show are good. Some are even better than good. And if all you want from your musical are songs sung with talent – they you’ll be happy. However, if you want a compelling performance and unique script around your singing, you’ll find much lacking in this show. MAYBE SEE IT
For the occasional theater goer – Maybe you haven’t seen this story played out on stage a millions times over in various forms. Maybe you haven’t seen the same tired story on multiple TV or movie screens. If that’s the case, then perhaps you’ll find some fun in it. MAYBE SEE IT
For theater junkies – The plot is obvious, the characters thinly drawn, the music forgettable, the lyrics not clever enough and many of the performances feel like they are being called in. SKIP IT