I Love You Because takes a look at a pair of twennty-somethings and their search for love and connection in modernManhattan. When greeting-card writer Austin discovers his longtime girlfriend has been cheating on him he finds himself, along with his brother Jeff, back in the dating pool. They quickly meet two newly single ladies – Marcy and Diana and begin their roller-coaster ride of rocky romance. Marcy tries to help Austin get over his ex and move on (to her) while Jeff and Diana try the “friends with benefits” approach.
Director Darcy Evans has worked with the cast to create refreshingly honest, likable performances that make you quickly begin to care about these characters. Jeff Madden engages our sympathy as the hopelessly romanticAustin. Madden serves up a master class in understated acting communicating so much of the character’s feelings with just his eyes. It’s a fascinating performance to watch, and thanks to his gorgeous singing voice, he makes it an equal joy to hear. He is matched in this department by Elena Juatco as Marcy who bookends the intermission with two powerful songs, letting the music and lyrics guide her through a maze of emotions.
Jay Davis plays Jeff, with oafish charm. His frequent malapropisms provide an easy source of humor that in lesser hands could quickly become tiresome, butDaviskeeps it fresh and true to character. He also generates laughs by stripping down to pair of outrageously colourful briefs in one sequence. The charm and conviction he brings to the role help us understand why the controlling Diana would want to stay with him. Diana, as expertly played and sung by Gabi Epstein, comes across amusingly as a lovable control-freak.
The ensemble characters – Michael De Rose and Cara Leslie bring spice to the proceedings making comments from the sidelines, playing a variety of roles and joining the leads for the rousing “What Do We Do it For?” that gives the second act a much-needed relief from the introspective songs.
Joshua Salzman’s melodies are infectious, and Ryan Cunningham’s colloquial lyrics are in tune with the characters. Music Director Lily Ling leads the four-piece band with precision, although occasionally the sound mix favours the instruments over the vocalists.
I Love You Because leaves one with a renewed hope for modern musical theatre writing, and once again we owe a debt of gratitude to Angelwalk for allowingToronto audiences the chance to see this show from off-Broadway. Don’t pass this one up!
I Love You Because plays in the Studio Theatre at the Toronto Centre for the Arts until April 15. For information visit http://www.angelwalk.ca or to purchase tickets call the Box Office: 416-872-1111.
Photo credit: Vincent Perri