Too much kissing and telling

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The Independent Culture
THERE'S a sketch in I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change in which two New Yorkers meet on a first date. She being a "busy, busy, busy" career woman who has already been briefed by him by a female friend, the pair decide to skip the tedious formalities of an initial encounter and move straight on, there and then, to the second date. With the same time-saving priorities in mind, they proceed to bypass all the various stages in a relationship (from the sexually tense third appointment to the break-up), and in a matter of minutes are plunged into that bittersweet chance meeting one misty night a year later.

There are several occasions during this off-Broadway musical review by Joe Dipietro and Jimmy Roberts when you find yourself wishing that a similar skipping procedure could whisk us all over the comparably predictable, time-consuming and formulaic phases in the show which explores what the programme wince-makingly terms "relationship experiences" from the young singles at the start to the couple of widowed oldsters who, in the final sketch, pick one another up in that great wrinklies-cruising arena, the New York funeral parlour.

If the piece has any positive effect, it's to increase one's admiration for Stephen Sondheim who was in advance of this material 30 years ago. The title of the show (and of the closing number) is reminiscent of, say, "Buddy's Song" in Follies ("I've got those `Tell me that you love me, oh you did, I'll see you later' blues"). But if you're expecting a commensurately witty pinning-down of love's neurotic perversities, forget it. Indeed, you begin to wonder whether a show like Company was merely a figment of your imagination as you listen to such a run-of-the- mill, panic-before- nuptials number as "Wedding Vows".

To piano and violin accompaniment, the quartet of performers in Joel Bishoff's production - Clive Carter, Shona Lindsay, Gillian Kirkpatrick, and Russell Wilcox - deliver the material with an attractiveness and broad type-shifting versatility that sometimes succeeds in disguising its thinness and lack of inspiration. Never for long, though, from this piece, with its lame parodies of macho gloss and insecurity ("My hair is receding/my ulcer is bleeding/my ego needs feeding/why? - cos I'm a man") and dated portraits of career women, you might form the impression that New York was the normalcy capital of the planet, with scarcely a hint of any slipperiness of sexual orientation. Only one sketch - in which a deserted and divorced woman can't stop herself from blurting out to the camera painful and possibly off-putting truths about her plight when she makes a dating video - flirts with the uncomfortable, and even that ends on a trying note of self-congratulatory uplift.

Aside from that, it's a case of jokey tangos between parents too shagged- out for a shag and mild, nerdy men who become rock-and-rolling fantasy dealings behind the wheel of the family car. One facetious sequence suggests bringing lawyers into the bedroom so that you could sue a partner who doesn't satisfy you sexually. How about bringing lawyers into theatres for shows that don't satisfy you comically?

Paul Taylor

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