by Gail M. Burns, October 2008

You know that saying: “Old age is not for sissies”? Well that applies to theatre companies as well as people. Late in its ninth decade of existence, the Town Players of Pittsfield, the second oldest community theatre group in the nation, has appeared to be on its last legs in recent years. Bouncing between the cavernous Robert Boland Theatre at BCC and a cramped corner of the art gallery at the Lichtenstein Center, Town Players mounted a string of shoddy small shows and a couple of mediocre big ones that left me and others long-acquainted with the group pining for the good old days and despairing of the future role of a community theatre in a region over-run by professionals.

So I am delighted to report that I theatre elated, because the Town Players I remembered fondly had reappeared. This charming and very funny production of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change is proof positive that there is nothing wrong with presenting a small show, provided you give it as much love and attention as you would a big one. ...Love,...Perfect,...Change, as it is colloquially known, calls for a cast of just four talented actor/singers, a single, flexible set, and the music can be satisfyingly provided, as it is here, by a lone pianist. Director Jessica A. Guzzo has paired the right show with the right cast and staged it in the right space, and the result is enchanting.

...Love,...Perfect,...Change opened off-Broadway in 1996 and closed just this past summer, making it the second longest running off-Broadway production ever. This is really is surprising because even “lightweight” is a ponderous term to use for this little revue of skits and songs about heterosexual courting and marriage. The songs, with lyrics by librettist Joe DePietro and music by Jimmy Roberts, are fun but not memorable. There is no through-plot or recurring characters. Just two men and two women, coupling, uncoupling, and recoupling in different classic configurations, covering everything from the first date to widowhood.

Not surprisingly the show begins with a Biblical joke about the creation of humankind and its division into two sexes who can’t live with or without one another. The very talented Matt Passetto returns to the Town Players and continues to impress with his vibrant tenor vocals and his versatility as an actor. Whether he was playing a mass murderer in Scared Straight, a baby-obsessed first-time father, or an elderly widower who uses salami to pick up women, he was always funny, always different, and always excellent.

In comparison to Passetto’s dominating and classically trained voice, the other three performers sound soft, but not weak, and Hooray! Hooray! no one is miked!

The petite and charming Wanda E. Libardi has the second strongest set of pipes in the cast, and is entertaining as a wise and wary bridesmaid, a harried haus frau about to get lucky (finally!) in The Marriage Tango, and Passetto’s elderly funeral parlor pick-up in I Can Live With That.

Anahid Avsharian, a Town Players newcomer, is a delightful and winning performer. She is a dead-ringer for beloved comedienne Ruth Buzzi. Of course, it is not enough just to look like someone talented, you have to BE someone talented, and Avsharian is talented. Guzzo has given her most of the sympathetic female roles and she tugs successfully at our heartstrings as she portrays the female yearning for communication and companionship along with sex and the thrill of romance in numbers like I Will Be Loved Tonight and He Called Me.

Gerol Petruzella gets to strut his stuff as the anything-but-studly Stud in A Stud and A Babe and as Libardi’s leopard-print-thong-wearing mate in The Marriage Tango. And he gets a charming solo turn as a very married man in Shouldn’t I Be Less In Love With You? Dark and moustaschioed, Petruzella makes a fine contrast to Passetto’s fair and boyish good looks.

When the Theater Barn presented this light-as-air revue back in 2002 I criticized the script’s strong New York City bias. Guzzo has obviously removed everything that bugged me back then, because this time around I was treated to a couple of cute local references and never had to watch audience members stare blankly while jokes that would be hilarious 150 miles further south zipped by.

I have no idea how I have lived in Berkshire County for 28 years, and reviewed theatre here for 11, and never set foot in the K111 stage at BCC. I literally didn’t know it existed and was delighted to see a comfortable space that was, as Goldilocks so famously said, “Just right!” for the Town Players at this point in their existence. Granted, the performance area is small on the K111 stage, but Guzzo and set designer Robert Boland have used every inch of playing space and every prop (Jonathan Slocum) and costume piece (Susan Slack and the cast) to its best advantage. The show, ably lit by Sean Sliney and Robert Dumais, looks just great.

The opening audience I attended with really had fun at this show. It zips along, full of laughs, and, while it addresses sex directly, it is never tacky or vulgar.

I think one reason ...Love,...Perfect,...Change has been such a success is because it focuses on heterosexual dating and mating and the majority of the earth’s population is straight – a fact that’s underrepresented in today’s plays, musicals, and films. It’s great to celebrate diversity, but its also great to celebrate the sexual orientation that perpetuates the species. And whatever your sexual proclivity, human beings are not created to live alone. There is a universal need to find that one person with whom you feel safe and special and to make a home.

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change presented by the Town Players of Pittsfield will be performed October 3, 4, 10 & 11 at 7:30 p.m. and October 5 at 2 p.m. in the K111 Theatre in the Koussevitsky Arts Center at Berkshire Community College, 1305 West Street, Pittsfield. Tickets are $18 ($15 for seniors, students and groups of 10 or more.) The show runs two hours and ten minutes with one intermission and is suitable for ages 13 and up. Call 413-443-9279 for tickets and information.

copyright Gail M. Burns, 2008

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