Review: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (James Downing Theatre)

     
    

Witty, fun show upended by uneven cast

     
     

From left to right are: Micah Fortenberry, Elissa Newcorn, Elise Morrow-Schap and David E. Wojtowicz.

  
The James Downing Theatre presents
   
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change
 
Book/Lyrics by Joe DiPietro
Music by
Jimmy Roberts
Directed by
Dale Hawes
at
John Waldron Arts Center, Chicago (map)
thru March 6  |  tickets: $15-$20  |  more info

Reviewed by Allegra Gallian 

Love.

Whether you’re in it, searching for it, hating on it or agonizing over it, love is always a favorite topic of discussion, and never fails to spark heated discussions or wistful storytelling. Love causes people to do crazy things, and no matter how many times people have been spurned by it, most find themselves right back out there hoping that this next first date will lead to “the one.”

Elissa Newcorn is “Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride” in a scene from 'I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change' by the Charles Downing Theatre Chicago.I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, a musical revue, explores the highs and lows of dating, relationships, marriage, children and everything in between. The show itself is clever and witty, humorously exploring the plight of single people, the highs and lows of marriage and what having children does to a married couple’s sex life.

James Downing Theatre’s production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change starts of well with the four-person cast (Micah Fortenberry, Elise Morrow-Schap, Elissa Newcorn and David Wojtowicz) singing the ensemble opening number. Each cast member shows off their personality and distinguishes their characterization right from the beginning.

As the series of vignettes and musical numbers continues, it becomes increasingly clear that the casting is uneven, causing an imbalance between the cast. The woman (Morrow-Schap and Newcorn) clearly outshine the men with both their musical talents and their strong stage presence. The woman belt out the songs with confidence and flair, showcasing their voices and offering genuinely touching or side-splitting moments with solos such as “I Will be Loved Tonight” and “Always a Bridesmaid.” Both Morrow-Schap and Newcorn are sassy and quick with the comedic timing.

Because the women are so fantastic, it makes it abundantly clear that the men are not on the same level. Fortenberry begins a little stiffly but does relax and eases into his characters as the show progresses. He becomes adorable as the “awkward guy” on dates. Yet his singing voice is not powerful enough to withstand the fullness of a musical revue. His voice isn’t bad by any means, but it lacks the power and depth to belt out number after number with force. A man’s man (David E. Wojtowicz, right) is mortified when his date (Elissa Newcorn) picks a romantic tearjerker.Wojtowicz also lacks the depth in his voice to carry through the musical numbers. Perhaps it’s the character voices he uses, but his singing voice is less than stellar and his performances are dimmed by his fellow cast mates.

The costuming for I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change borders on high school musical costumes. In some scenes it looks like the actors have just brought in clothes to wear from their own closets and in other scenes the makeshift costumes look cheap and unfortunately visually detract from the performances. Some stronger direction and detail with costuming could have amped up the show.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change finishes strong with an ensemble finale number. Though this production struggles to overcome its mismatched ensemble, the show itself proves to be witty and entertaining, finishing on a high note.

  
  
Rating: ★★
 
 

From left to right: David E. Wojtowicz, Elissa Newcorn and Elise Morrow-Schap. James Downing Theatre Chicago

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change plays at the James Downing Theatre, 6740 N. Oliphant, through March 6. Tickets are $20 and $15 for seniors and students. They can be purchased at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/153540.


Cast and Production Team: Directed by Dale Hawes with Music Director, David Richards, the wonderful comically and musically talented cast includes Micah Fortenberry, Elise Morrow-Schap, Elissa Newcorn and David E. Wojtowicz. Lighting and sound design is by Steve Kedzierski. Set design is by Joshua Dlouhy.

  
  

Bailiwick Chicago extends F**KING MEN for 2nd time

Bailiwick Chicago Announces 3-Week Extension

of Joe DiPietro’s F**KING MEN


Executive Director Kevin Mayes announced today that Bailiwick Chicago’s hit production of Joe DiPietro’s F**KING MEN will be extended for an additional three weeks due to popular demand. Performances will continue through Sunday, August 29 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont with the original cast.

We are so pleased that Chicago audiences have embraced this production,” said Mayes, “and we are excited that we’ve been able to keep the original cast together for this second extension. It’s been an amazing summer for Bailiwick Chicago, with our two hit shows Aida and F**KING MEN. We are incredibly proud of – and humbled by – the response.

F**KING MEN observes the sex lives of the modern urban gay American male. Conceived as a noir-riff on Arthur Schnitzler’s 19th century play, LA RONDE, the play examines ten men from all walks of life as they negotiate the before and after of lust, love, betrayal and the pursuit of sex and emotional connection. Funny, poignant, sometimes dramatic, always provocative and sexy, the show has been critically acclaimed by Chicago critics: “Emotionally Searing…Superb Performances…there is truth and understanding in F**KING MEN.” (Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times) “…[F**KING MEN] is serviced brilliantly by this snappy, assured Chicago production.” (Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune) “…F**KING MEN is pretty fucking solid.” (Kris Vire, TimeOut Chicago).

Bailiwick Chicago has launched a dedicated web site for the production with photos, videos, and additional information about the show at www.FMenChicago.com.

Performances are Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., and Sundays at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $25. Special Reserved seating is available for $30. Student and Industry rush tickets will be available at the door for $15 at every Sunday performance. Group (6+) tickets are $20.00. To purchase tickets, call the Stage 773 box office at 773-327-5252, or go towww.ticketmaster.com.

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REVIEW: F**king Men (Bailiwick Chicago Theatre)

The Circle of Gay Life

FMen-Vanguard 

    
Bailiwick Chicago presents
   
F**king Men
   
Written by Joe DiPietro
Directed by
Tom Mullen
at
Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
through July 25th  |  tickets: $25  |  more info

reviewed by Keith Ecker 

I don’t know if you read the papers, but us gay guys get a pretty bad rap. If we’re not contributing to the downfall of society, we’re made out to be self-loathing, sex-crazed loveless loners.

But the truth is, gay men—just like all human beings—are capable of love, and in fact, spend much of their lives, as everyone does, looking for it. And it is this search for Ryan - Beaumeaning, connection and kindness in a sea of sex that playwright Joe DiPietro attempts to illuminate in his cyclical play Fucking Men.

Fucking Men is a loose adaptation of the 19th century play La Ronde in which pairings of characters are featured in scenes preceding and succeeding sexual encounters. It’s an interesting structure—often employed as an improv comedy exercise—that lends itself to strong characterizations and oodles of dramatic irony.

The play begins and ends with John (Arthur Luis Soria), a young lovelorn prostitute. John is about to turn a trick. The trick’s name is Steve (Cameron Harms), a closeted military man who wants to receive oral sex from a man, you know, just to test it out. After the deed is done, Steve freaks out and beats up John.

Next is a silent scene in which Steve is in the gym sauna opposite Marco (Armand Fields). Steve touches his chest, signaling to Marco that he’s interested. Without saying a word, the two men fool around. Afterward, Marco continues his locker room routine: change out of clothes, pack up his bag, etc., while the closeted Steve rambles on about his sexuality and his encounter with John.

Naturally, the next scene depicts Armand with yet another character (this one a wisecracking, pot-smoking college student). And the domino effect of the La Ronde continues from there.

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The overarching theme of the play seems to be the need to inject kindness into our relationships, no matter how fleeting. It is all too easy to take advantage of others to fulfill our own selfish sexual and emotional desires. But if you come at sex with a sense of empathy, then you can be sure to limit the amount of pain you spread throughout the world and increase the love. Think of it like paying it forward…only sexually.

Some of the scenes really capture this idea. When the older and partnered Leo (Thad Anzur) enters the college dorm of Kyle (Cameron Johnson) for a random sexual encounter, he gets cold feet. Leo wants to know Kyle, to have some emotional connection prior to the physical connection. Youthful Kyle just wants sex and makes it  clear that if Leo isn’t going to give it up then he can easily get it elsewhere. The two end up chatting and finding some common ground to connect on. Leo gets the emotional connection he’s been seeking, and Kyle gets the sex.

Christian - KarmannOther scenes, however, are less believable. The opening scene in particular falls flat. When the closeted Steve gushes about his self-doubt and sexual confusion to the prostitute, I had to roll my eyes. The scene just doesn’t seem grounded in reality. A prostitute is going to know not to take on a buff, aggressive client who is deeply self-hating and fearful of gays. It’s a safety precaution. And the closeted Steve’s dialogue is riddled with more clichés than a Lifetime movie.

The other major flaw of the play is the music. Laurence Mark Wythe composed original instrumentals for Fucking Men that play as transitions between scenes as set pieces are moved and altered to create the various settings. And although the music itself is just fine, it undercuts the dramatic tension of the scenes when it is used underneath the dialogue. I’m assuming this was a decision made by director Mullen, and I would hope it is relegated only to scene transitions in future performances.

Overall, Fucking Men strikes at the core of what motivates gay men—and quite possibly everyone else too—to have sex. And although there are some weaknesses with a few of the characters whose behaviors just are beyond believable, it’s pretty easy to find traces of yourself in most of them.

   
   
Rating: ★★★
   
   

fucking men cast with playwright Joe DiPietro

Cast of “F**king Men”, including Director Tom Mullen and Playwright Joe DiPietro.

           
           

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