“I Love You…” Looks inward for laughs

By By Justin Jacobs

Theater Square Cabaret 655 Penn Avenue, Downtown Performances through Feb. 1, 2009 … Theater Square Cabaret 655 Penn Avenue, Downtown Performances through Feb. 1, 2009 412-456-6666′ ‘ ‘ In the course of about two hours, Ted Watts Jr. went through more relationships than most of us have in a lifetime. One woman hated how much he talked about golf. One hated how he drove his beloved car. And one just couldn’t wait 32 seconds until the Steelers game was over to talk. ‘ ‘ ‘ No, Watts isn’t a guinea pig in a new generation of speed dating ‘mdash; he’s an actor in the off-Broadway favorite ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!’ now running at the small, personal Theater Square Cabaret in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. ‘ ‘ ‘ Far from traditional theater fare, ‘I Love You …,’ written by Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts, is a collection of musical comedy sketches exploring the minutia of all types of relationships, from one night stands to the death of a spouse. ‘ ‘ ‘ One of only four cast members, Ted Watts Jr. believes the show speaks truthfully on love and life. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘I know the feeling of going through a relationship, trying to make it work, knowing that it’s just not right. I’ve had experiences where I wanted people to change, or they wanted me to change,’ said Watts. ‘And, of course, there’s the experience of wanting to meet someone new, but being nervous that they’ll be crazy. My experiences have colored probably every character I do here.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ But while Watts’ sentiment is on the serious side, don’t be mistaken ‘mdash; ‘I Love You …,’ here directed by James Brennan, is full of anything but sappy drama. The show’s many sketches take twisted looks at familiar topics, enabling anyone who has ever loved (or even liked) to find something relatable. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘Everybody’s got that wink-wink nudge-nudge feel when they leave the theater. You hear a lot of recognition-type laughter. You hear, ‘Oh honey, that’s so you,’ from the stage,’ said Watts. ‘The show is so unique that it hits everybody in some way.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ It’s no surprise, then, that the show’s seen such success. While it opened just earlier this month in Pittsburgh, ‘I Love You …’ enjoyed a nice, long run in New York City. It was so long, in fact, that it’s now the second-longest running musical ever in an off-Broadway theater after a dozen-year span that ended this past August. ‘ ‘ ‘ Here, the show takes subtle asides at its new location. The Cabaret’s mid-sized stage is filled with familiar Pittsburgh visuals, including the signs of Primanti’s, the Convention Center Downtown and a street sign pointing to the Strip District. Characters mention The Steelers (wife: ‘Are there 32 real seconds or football seconds left in the game?’) as a possible relationship roadblock. ‘ ‘ ‘ Guys ‘mdash; if your girl is bugging you about not having a sensitive side, this might be your best bet for redemption. Take her out (student tickets are only $12 through Pitt Arts) to one of the many performances and, during the more sentimental parts (the last scene, with two widowed older folks is your best bet), lean over and whisper, ‘This is so us,’ and she’ll melt and slide off her seat. ‘ ‘ ‘ Plus, the idiosyncrasies the show points out (boyfriends being forced to hold girlfriend’s shopping bags in the mall) will drop subtle hints into her head that just might make your life easier. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘I think the show crosses every ‘t’, dots every ‘i’, as far as relationships are concerned. It’s the small things, the good things, the scary things and the nervous things,’ said Watts. ‘ ‘ ‘ For this CLO Academy instructor and longtime Pittsburgh Musical Theater veteran, working with only three other actors was quite a change. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘We’re getting to know each other very well. But it’s not one guy paired with one girl ‘mdash; we switch every scene. It gives us a real opportunity to bring all we’ve got out there to work with,’ said Watts. ‘ ‘ ‘ And though the cast, including Christine Laitta, Kristiann Menotiades and Joseph Domencic, has provided Watts with a great time, it’s the audience that makes this show worth it. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘The best feedback we’ve gotten is hearing people laugh from the stage. You can really feel that the crowd is enjoying it. You can’t help but see people’s faces,’ said Watts. ‘The way it’s written, people leave with a fuzzy feeling. It’s a great, great idea for a date.’