I Love You Because

Michael Van Duzer Reviews - Theater

I Love You Because is a musical about dating and relationships in the big city -- New York, naturally. The genuine sparkle in the After Hours Theatre Company production at the Hudson Theatre is due mostly to a talented and strong-voiced cast of young performers.

Austin Bennett (Austin MacPhee) is an uptight, but dashing, writer of greeting cards who has just walked in on his girlfriend cavorting with another man. His fun-loving, extroverted brother Jeff (Nick Bredosky) subscribes to the get-back-on-the-horse remedy for lost love and wheedles his brother into a blind double-date.

Marcy (Aly French) has just broken up with her long-term relationship. Her actuary best friend, Diana Bingley (Shelley Regner) explains the rules for properly getting over a man. Most important being the RT (Rebound Time) which, from the length of Marcy’s relationship, Diana determines to be six months. Hence their hurry to find a safe-bet rebound guy. Enter the Bennett Brothers.

Austin and Diana take an immediate dislike to each other but, as this is a romantic comedy, we know where that will lead. Marcy and Jeff fall into an easy relationship, though neither of them seem to be looking for one. While opposites do attract, neither of these couples seem even remotely well-matched outside of a theatrical setting.

Ryan Cunningham’s book is supposedly based on Pride and Prejudice but, aside from “Marcy” and a couple of infrequently mentioned last names, Cunningham seems to have jettisoned the idea somewhere along the line. Certainly none of the romantic situations have anything of Elizabeth and Darcy’s will-they-ever-get-together tension.

Cunningham’s lyrics are bright, singable, and compliment Joshua Salzman’s attractive score. There is real talent here, and, if a few of the more propulsive numbers contain echoes of Jason Robert Brown, there are also great musical moments, like Marcy’s “Just Not Now” and a terrific quartet for the principals, “But I Do.” Music Director Elmo Zapp capitalizes on the energy of the score and makes sure that all the songs land.

The attractive, youthful cast are all impressive singing performers and do much to enhance the show’s strengths. MacPhee is too obviously a leading man to totally convince as stuffy Austin, but he plays the role with commendable conviction. French is an equally effective Marcy and takes full advantage of the fact that her role is slightly less stereotypical. As the secondary musical couple, Bredosky and Regner get all their laughs, but also create a sexual spark which animates their scenes. Harrison Meloeny and Reesa Marie do a fine job as a series of baristas and waiters in various watering holes. But their material is decidedly insubstantial.

Rebecca Kenigsberg’s direction is clean and focused on the characters. I Love You Because is an entertaining evening with a memorable cast.

Hudson Theatre    July 22 – August 7, 2016    www.plays411/iloveyoubecause