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I Love You Because

Review of I Love You Because

Peoria Cabaret Theatre
By Cara Rosson

This was my second show at Peoria Cabaret Theatre at The Waterhouse – and I have to say, dinner is quite good. Served buffet style and delicious. The cheesecake dessert was a generous slice. The second floor room at the Waterhouse has a lovely atmosphere – and being rather dark, it’s well suited for theatre and a romantic dinner. I saw many couples in what I’m pretty sure were Valentine’s dates.

If only the show carried through on its titular promise of love and romance. This disappointment is definitely the fault of the book and lyrics, though. I found the cast to be very talented, with great voices and acting skills. But they had to struggle a great deal to make something out of Salzman and Cunningham’s flat characterization and dialogue, and often trite and obvious lyrics.

The show is set in New York City, and Austin Bennett and Marcy Fitzwilliams (played by Jarod Hazzard and Erin Durbin) have both broken up with their longtime loves. Austin seeks advice from his brother Jeff (Adam Sitton), while Marcy seeks the council of her friend Diana Bingley (Dedra Kaiser). It quickly brings to mind “Sex and the City” or maybe “About Last Night.” It’s a little brash and sometimes irreverent. They all meet up because of Jeff and Diana – who set up a date for themselves through the Jewish Singles website, though neither of them are actually Jewish.

There are lots of funny bits like this throughout the play, which can be quite amusing. Adam Sitton as Jeff is consistently hilarious, and his character is actually not so badly written. He’s your typical free-wheeling womanizer, not interested in getting too heavy with any woman, and throwing out plenty of lame but funny pick up lines and misguided romantic advice for Jeff. He has a very comical but sweet habit of mixing up the words in common phrases, like “getting your ducks in a line” vs. the standard “row.” Watching Jeff progress through the story is entertaining and engaging.

If only I could say the same for the lead couple. The character of Austin mostly tells you that he is super organized, anal retentive, and likes his life just the way it is. But he rarely gets to show you these traits – and that’s the whole point of theatre, watching someone act in a way we can relate to. I certainly didn’t want to sit and listen to someone verbally describe himself, but unfortunately, that’s the way Austin is written.

The character of Marcy is a free-spirited, artist type (she’s a photographer) and she sometimes gets to act out this personality, but sadly it’s a little too dependent on stereotypes, and also written too literally to let Ms. Durbin’s considerable acting chops shine through.

The first act does get better as it goes along, and contains some really lovely harmonies and polyphonic parts with the actors in pairs, trios and entire sextets. The lyrics were clever and fun in this act, and the show started to grow on me. The story was very “meet cute” and not the most original, but I was enjoying it.

The second act sadly continued many of the bad parts of the first act. The music remained good melodically, but the lyrics became painfully and annoyingly literal, yet again telling the audience what the characters are doing and feeling, instead of letting them having conversations that allow us to empathize with their emotions.

Luckily, the show is helped along by the ever-changing “Greek Chorus” of Kyle Motsinger and Kates Sitton, who play the bartenders, baristas, waitpersons, and neighbors that add entertaining color and commentary to the romances developing between Austin and Marcy, or Jeff and Diana. Their comic talents help keep the relationships moving, and definitely make them more interesting than they would have been on their own.

The lighting was well done, and very helpful in separating the action in what is a rather small space. The clever set uses sliding panels to separate the action as well, and quickly makes new though slightly plain spaces during quick changes – from apartments to bars and coffee shops – doing its part to keep the flagging story going.

But all the talent, design, and clever choreography in Peoria could not get beyond this show’s poorly written dialogue and inconsistent lyrics. It often sounds quite pretty, and it will make you laugh, but it falls flat too often to carry through on the fun and flirty romance necessary for a fine romantic musical comedy.

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