Mating Game 

Shakespeare Festival presents musical revue

If the nights are cooler and the shows start at 7 p.m. it must be the final month of Shakespeare by the river. Except that there's no Shakespeare. The Idaho Shakespeare Festival is ending its 2004 season with a sexy modern musical revue about dating, love, marriage, family life, divorce ... in short, the war of the sexes in capsulated form.

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, as its title implies, deals with the varied relationships involved in the mating game, with echoes of Laugh In, or if you're not old enough to remember that hit television show, Saturday Night Live--without the politics.

Directed by Victoria Bussert and starring four lively and talented performers with at least 60 costume changes, the show is a fast-moving, sophisticated collection of situations as men and women meet, date, break up, marry, become parents, age and die. Bussert says that in these scenes, "Somewhere you will see yourself," and she's right. But you don't have to admit which ones.

The cast fills the stage with sparkling personalities, good singing voices and humorous and touching situations. The guys, Fabio Polanco and Jeffries Thaiss, and the shapely, gorgeous gals, Trista Moldovan and Emily Krieger, each play about 15 different characters of all ages. Many of the sketches are classic comic jabs, such as "Men Who Talk and the Women Who Pretend They're Listening," or "Funerals Are for Dating--I Can Live with That."

Moldovan is outstanding with her "I Will Be Loved Tonight," and her touching rendition of the "Always a Bridesmaid" lament with a twist. Polanco and Thaiss hit just the right note with their "Why? Cause I'm a Guy," hymn to macho actions and attitudes.

Krieger is a blonde bombshell in her big production number when "he" actually calls. "I'll Call You Soon (Yeah, Right) He Called" is so over the top it is hilarious, especially because it conveys, as do most of the scenes, a solid grain of truth.

Parents too get into the act when a guy brings his longtime girlfriend home to announce--not a wedding--but their breakup. Polanco and Moldovan pull out all the stops to depict their musical devastation at seeing their hopes of grandkids go down the drain.

Two scenes that fell a little flat were the prison scene, where a convicted criminal scares a couple into a marriage commitment, and "The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz." The dating video scene consisted of the actress sitting facing the video camera with her back to the audience, supposedly being filmed as she tells the story of her painful divorce. The audience watches her face on two television screens, but there is an incomplete feeling to the sketch without a "live" person to watch and connect with. We can watch flickering screens in the comfort of our living rooms.

But the beauty of this revue format is that if one skit doesn't click with you, it is short, and the next scene may be a zinger.

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change opens each night at 7 p.m. and continues its run Wednesdays to Sundays through Sept. 25. Sadly, there is no Greenshow, so no crazy guys and topical humor. But I Love You is so peppy, absurd (and usually right on) that it provides an evening of laughs and fast-moving entertainment. Don't forget a sweater or a light blanket because September nights by the river can be quite chilly.

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, book and lyrics by Joe Dipietro; music by Jimmy Roberts

Wednesday-Sunday through Sept. 25. No Greenshow. Theater opens at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m.

$18-$32 general, family nights (Sundays) $10-$26, free for 5 and younger

Idaho Shakespeare Festival, 5645 Warm Springs Ave.

Info/tickets: 336-9221, www.idahoshakespeare.org.

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