Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
With I Love You Because, Know Theatre of Cincinnati presents its third musical in just four months, and this is the best of the lot. This small six-performer show with quirky yet true-to-life characters and situations is fun and tuneful, and Know stages the piece with skill and care.
I Love You Because, a tale of two mismatched couples, accurately bills itself as "a modern day musical love story." The plot tells of four lovelorn people looking for anything but a serious long-term relationship. Diana, an actuary and romance-by-the-numbers dater, and her extremely free-spirited best friend Marcy are looking for meaningless rebound men until they're ready for something more. Dimwitted Jeff and his uptight and play-it-safe brother Austin seem, respectively, ideal for dead-end transition guys for the ladies. But, of course, the four find that true love can make even the most opposite and odd pairings work.
The book by Ryan Cunningham creates unique and authentically flawed characters in romantic situations to which most audience members can relate. Though the show lacks a certain level of excitement and energy (it's been said that musicals should deal with either big characters or big situations) and is somewhat predictable, its universal truths about love and dating are communicated with the requisite balance of humor and genuine feelings.
Mr. Cunningham also supplied the show's straightforward and often very funny lyrics which are paired with jaunty, contemporary melodies by Joshua Salzman. Some of the songs sound a bit generic, but others rise to a higher level of accomplishment in both words and music. Song highlights include "The Actuary Song" (a comedic number where Diana explains to Marcy how to mathematically calculate the wait time after a breakup), the touching "Just Not Now," "But I Do," "Marcy's Yours" and the title number.
Know Theatre gives its typical solid and entertaining production. Director Jason Bruffy provides fluid staging and transitions, and an apt tone, capturing both the humor and emotions of the ups and downs of modern romance. Despite a few dropped lines on opening night, the cast seems well prepared overall. Michael Flohr energetically leads a four piece band.
Courtney Brown conveys the proper carefree, live-in-the-moment attitude as Marcy, and sings capably throughout. As Austin, Fang Du is suitably eager, neurotic and obsessive, but he has some difficulties singing some his material. Jenny Guy turns in an overall winning performance as Diana, while Daniel S. Hines (Jeff) scores with both his first-rate comedic delivery and with the cast's best vocals. Babs Ipaye and Ayla Ocasio provide solid support in multiple other roles.
The simple yet realistic and effective set design is by Andrew Hungerford, who also provides sufficient lighting throughout. Costumes by Laura Franzini are a good fit for the characters, though a bit more variety would be welcome. The sound design by Doug Borntrager is a big improvement over other recent Know productions.
With Valentine's Day just around the corner, romance is a central theme of the next month. I Love You Because is an extremely good theater choice for those wishing to celebrate love in its many forms, and Know Theatre of Cincinnati mounts a solidly entertaining production.
I Love You Because runs through February 21, 2009. Call (513) 300-KNOW for tickets or more information, or visit www.knowtheatre.com.-- Scott Cain