New York may have millions of people, but it can be a lonely place if you are searching for love and coming off a failed relationship. I Love You Because features 4 young people navigating these waters, in the traditional romantic comedy genre of “opposites attract.” In this case, Austin (Mark Thompson) is a greeting card writer and would be poet rendered inert by his recent breakup. His brother Jeff, (Frank Schierloh) is a boy-man pedi-cab driver whose main desire is to never grow up. These losers are targeted by Marcy (Jenna Pinchbeck), a beautiful photographer, and Diana (Kristina Psitos), an actuary who comically uses her skills to help them overcome their own recent romances.
Authors Ryan Cunningham (book and lyrics) and Joshua Salzman (music) have been inspired by the works of Jane Austin, but aside from the names (Austin, Bingley, or Fitzwilliam), and the general theme of finding love, the connection is hardly noticeable. Cunningham’s complex, witty and often Gilbertian lyrics are supported nicely by the pleasant but generic score.
The men battle mightily to overcome the clichés and confusing arcs of the characters, handling their songs effectively with strong voices and as much sincerity as they can muster. The ladies are even better and the quartets that sprinkle the score are highlights, especially the title song and “We’re Just Friends,” which was performed beautifully by Kristina Psitos. There is also secure musical direction by Allyson Mercer.
The set design by Brian Seaman is a total success, where a few simply placed platforms and well designed props create a coffeehouse/Irish bar, that sets us immediately in New York, and is convincing enough to order a drink. The many varied costumes by Becky Wright, perfectly define the characters and the locale. This is all accompanied by smooth and effective lighting by Ryan Stone.
The excellent five-piece band: Pete Bretz on Piano;Dylan Harrington and Colin Tancredi on Drums and Percussion; George Livanos on bass, Laura Reimer on Clarinet, and Dan Ruehr on keyboard, accompanies the singers strongly.
Director Anne Marie Scalies has staged the action attractively on the remarkable set. The acting however, is closer to an SNL skit than a Jane Austin inspired musical. The attractive and well-sung chorus of varied New Yorkers (Eric P. Thompson and Danielle Tummenelli, also play small parts in the chorus), but their acting is a little over-the top. And I was baffled by the ending which I did not find believable.
The Players Club of Swarthmore delivers an agreeable and entertaining night out with some talented artists with their production of I Love You Because.
Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes, with an intermission.
I love You Because plays through Saturday February 27, 2016 at Players Club of Swarthmore – 614 Fairview Avenue, in Swarthmore, PA. For tickets, call Ovation Tix at (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.