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Exploring modern dating and relationships onstage

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FOR THOSE who want a taste of the different facets of love, there’s that and more to look forward to in Repertory Philippines’ (REP) upcoming production, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!.

With performances set at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium from June 14 to July 6, the musical comedy features four actors playing 40 characters, each serving fresh takes on modern dating and relationships. Its title, a witty yet achingly real reflection of how love often goes, holds a mirror to the complexities of romance in the world today.

Known as the longest-running off-Broadway show, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! was originallyperformed at New York City’s Westside Theatre in 1996, with book and lyrics by award-winning Joe DiPietro and music by renowned composer Jimmy Brooks.

The 2024 staging, directed by Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, will update the story to the present day, where swiping left or right is the norm, and phenomena like the talking stage, “situationships,” and ghosting complicate matters.

Ms. Lauchengco-Yulo told the media at a May 31 preview that the audience can expect a colorful musical, and a “wild rollercoaster ride through love.”

“It’s basically a musical revue, which means it doesn’t have a real narrative. What it has are vignettes that talk about relationships and people trying to connect in different ways, from dating to marriage to old age and so forth,” she said.

“It’s a very big challenge for my four actors, since they keep shifting characters to take you on a journey.”

Gian Magdangal, Krystal Kane, Gabby Padilla, and Marvin Ong take on the daunting challenge of embodying 40 characters, along with Barbara Jance and Davy Narciso as understudies.

Ms. Lauchengco-Yulo likens the actors to “superheroes.”

“They have to do super quick costume changes and also manipulate the set. They pretty much do anything on that stage,” she said.

The cast is also supported by a strong production team: assistant director Cara Barredo, musical director Ejay Yatco, set and costume designer Joey Mendoza, projector graphics designer GA Fallarme, lighting designer Meliton Roxas, choreographer Stephen Viñas, and sound designer Aji Manalo.

“We all trust the process and work as an ensemble to tell the story,” said Gabby Padilla. Known for her roles in films like Gitling and Billie and Emma, this production is her return to theater.

“Especially for material like this, which are adaptations, we have to tell it in a different way and modernize it, so it doesn’t seem too dated. That’s why it’s so fulfilling,” she said.

The actors all agreed that it was easy for them to say yes to Rep despite the “surefire difficulties in production” — in fact, even more so because of the challenging yet intriguing material.

As for how they’re able to relate to the 40 characters they play (and what each teaches them about love), the answers are complex.

“There are younger characters in the dating scene and they’re so frustrated because men. I’ve been there. Before we find our partners, it’s really a trial-and-error dynamic,” said Ms. Padilla.

“But the characters that we haven’t been through what they’ve experienced? They still retain a sense of optimism about love. We all wish to have that.”

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! runs from June 14 to July 6 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Ave. Corner Gil Puyat Ave., Makati City. Tickets are available via TicketWorld and Ticket2Me. — Brontë H. Lacsamana

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