The trouble with being one of “Off-Broadway’s longest-running shows” is that they tend to play tiny theatres to undemanding out-of-town audiences who sustain them long beyond their useful life: witnessThe Fantasticks, the grand-daddy of the species, whose 2010 airing at the Duchess Theatre was so roundly condemned by London critics, it didn’t run 42 days let alone the 42 years it survived in New York.

Here now at Riverside Studios is a modest staging of its kissing cousin I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, a bright and puppyishly enthusiastic cast gnaws a sixteen-year-old theatrical bone which has long lost its flavour, let alone the juicy marrow of observational satire.

Less a musical than a series of sketches in which the same characters do not reappear, although the same four actors portray all of them, we follow the stagy stages in the arc of ‘relationships’ from first date to possibly last when a pair of pensioners meet at a funeral – but so rigidly heterosexual, marital and parental that you wonder how blinkered the authors’ perception of human interactions was in the hyper-sexual nineties that they could exclude gay, auto-erotic, adulterous, fetishistic, commercially-transacted or even online sex, since the internet was already up and running in 1996.

It’s doggedly episodic: right after the wedding vignette you get the drunken disgruntled bridesmaid, and the over-fond new parents segue predictably to the couple who are harassed and tired from child-rearing.  You’ll find nothing remotely fresh – now, or back then – in the concepts that there’s a dearth of single available men, that bridesmaid’s dresses are a vicious act of taffeta revenge on the single girl, that women pretend to like the bores they meet in bars or that men don’t enjoy shoe shopping.

Much of this could be redeemed by updating Joe Pietro’s amiable script and some perky songs – but in the time since he and Jimmy Roberts wrote ILYYPNC with its gentle homespun melodies,Avenue Q has explained that ‘The Internet is for Porn’, Glee showed us a confident young woman’s anthem in ‘I Bust The Windows Out Your Car’ and when Elphaba in Wicked realizes that men aren’t reliable and rules are for breaking, she belts out ‘Defying Gravity’: the format for the musical theatre song has moved excitingly on.

In such short scenes, the hardworking cast don’t get much chance to develop characterization, but Nancy Hill does a nice job in ‘Always A Bridesmaid’ and the best solo piece ‘I Will Be Loved Tonight’ is poignant and moving in Kathleen McNamara’s wistful rendition.

Costumes are good, but the rudimentary sets and lighting give the actors little help in creating atmosphere, and there’s far too much furniture shifting for no real purpose since the scenes would work as well with a couple of all-purpose benches, and maybe a bit of back projection would be more convincing than three dismally-wallpapered flats.

ILYYPNC is a staple of college and summer stock productions around the US, many of which update the material: even Di Pietro and Roberts have moved on from it, and their recent project The Thing About Men is much more deserving of revival.

Date reviewed: Tuesday 30th October 2012

One Stop ArtsOriginally published on One Stop Arts.