If you’re a Jane Austen fan at Know Theatre’s regional premiere of the 2006 musical I Love You Because, you’ll feel as if you know this story. In fact, composer Joshua Salzman and lyricist Ryan Cunningham co-opted the plot of Pride and Prejudice, reversing the central characters’ genders.
If you don’t know the novel, fear not: You’ve heard this story before — breakups, rebounds and opposites attracting. Meticulous greeting-card writer Austin (Fang Du) and his slovenly but good-natured brother Jeff (Daniel S. Hines) share an apartment. When Austin’s long-term girlfriend cuts him loose, Jeff crassly advises testing the waters. Their first victims are roommates Diana (Jenny Guy), a daffy actuary, and Marcy (Courtney Brown), a free-spirited photographer who’s just ended a relationship.
Nothing seems promising on a first meeting via a dating service. But despite Diana’s mathematical theories adding it all up to determine how long a rebound relationship should last, she finds herself with the likeable slob. Meanwhile, Marcy butts heads with Austin, first helping the geek try to hook up with his ex, then falling in love with him.
Everything about these comic stories is predictable, but it’s familiar, entertaining predictability — rather like the Cincinnati Playhouse’s recent I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Know’s production, directed by Jason Bruffy, uses a few pieces of furniture — a café table, a futon, a bar — to set the scenes. The furniture is moved around by a generic New York City man and woman (played affably and occasionally humorously by Babs Ipaye and Ayla Ocasio).
Despite the show’s formulaic story, it has a winning score that’s performed with enthusiasm and polish. Brown is a warm, appealing singer; Du conveys Austin’s compulsive behavior with enough humor to make him likeable. Hines and Guy provide hilarious comic relief: His antic physical presence and constant malapropisms make him funny and endearing; her quirky but loveable reactions and eager, loose-limbed physicality make her the perfect match.
The show runs across Valentine’s weekend: It’s perfect for dates, literary or not.
I LOVE YOU BECAUSE, presented by Know Theatre of Cincinnati, continues through Feb. 21. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.