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I Love You Because
a Musical Comedy
by Ryan Cunningham (words) and Joshua Salzman (music)

COMPANY : Marietta Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Theatre In The Square:Alley Stage [WEBSITE]
ID# 5440

SHOWING : February 08, 2019 - February 23, 2019



"I Love You Because" is a modern twist on Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice," set in New York City. A young, uptight greeting card writer’s life is changed when he meets a flighty photographer. Along with their eccentric friends and siblings, they learn to love each other not in spite of their faults, but because of them.

Director Zach Phelps
Diana Stephanie Earle
Jeff Blake Fountain
Bartender, etc. Tony Glass
Austin Jacob McKee
Marcy Lillian Shaw
Waitress, etc. Katrina Stroup
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


First Date Redux
by playgoer
Monday, February 18, 2019
Marietta Theatre Company’s "I Love You Because" is awfully similar to last year’s "First Date." Both are modern, rockish musicals that depict mismatched individuals dating, with adversity eventually turning into affection. "I Love You Because" is purportedly based on Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice," but the inspiration seems to have been restricted solely to the last names of characters and to the general situation of two individuals initially at loggerheads eventually falling in love. The tone of the musical is anything but genteel and refined.

Zac Phelps’ set design reuses the New York skyline backdrop from "The Toxic Avenger," allowing it to be seen through the 2x4 framing that forms the back wall of the set, with cross pieces used as shelves for books and knick-knacks. Three levels of platforms provide some variety of playing levels, with a pull-out bed under the highest platform that gets a workout here and there. A two-sided bar gets wheeled out for several scenes, with a small round table and some chairs positioned downstage on the level floor of the playing space. The design allows for distinction between the scenes in the Bennet brothers’ apartment (the platforms) and in other locations.

The audience is split into two sections: one (about 2/3 of the audience) directly facing the stage and another (at least a third) on the stage right side of the playing area. In Mr. Phelps’ choreography and blocking, actors lined up across the stage are fully visible to a slim majority of the audience, while those sitting on the side get a profile view of one actor and obstructed views of everyone else. Only in the number "We’re Just Friends" does a concerted effort seem to have been made to ensure that all members of the audience get pleasing views throughout the song.

Modern day costumes are used, so they’re nothing special except for the effective get-ups used by Katrina Stroup and Tony Glass as they take on various roles. Lighting design (by Brad Rudy) draws unnecessary attention to itself at times, but generally sets the audience up to know when a musical number is coming to a close. Visually, the show is okay, but not abundantly stylish.

L Gamble’s music direction gets good vocal performances out of everyone. Lillian Shaw, as our heroine, has a beautiful voice and an acting range that extends from comedy to true emotion. Stephanie Earle, as her friend, is a little more bawdy, but equally delightful. Ms. Stroup and Mr. Glass invest their many roles with energy and good voices.

The main problem in the show is in the performances of the Bennet brothers -- Austin (Jacob McKee), paired romantically with Ms. Shaw’s Marcy, and Jeff (Blake Fountain), paired with Ms. Earle’s Diana. Both play their roles very broadly. Austin is the prototypical nerd, and Mr. McKee plays him with an unpleasant edge. Jeff mangles phrases with a frequency in the script that becomes tiresome, and Mr. Fountain plays him with a vocal volume that had the ladies behind me grumbling each time he sang. When the audience can’t root for half of each romantic couple, the show becomes less and less engaging as it goes by. It doesn’t help that the overly long first act sets up the relationships, then abruptly breaks them, while the second act is basically a bunch of songs killing time until the couples get together again.

"I Love You Because" is a nice vehicle for the actresses cast in the show, letting them show some acting range as well as vocal chops. Mr. Glass also gets a chance to show some versatility. Messrs. McKee and Fountain also get the chance, but director Zac Phelps has chosen to let them play their roles on a single, basically distasteful note. "First Date" was better. "I Love You Because" isn’t perfect, and not a worthwhile change from last year’s Valentine’s offering from Marietta Theatre Company. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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