"I Love You" Near Perfect 

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Can you explore every aspect of male-female interactions in the course of a two-hour stage musical? Not really, but as demonstrated by Swift Creek Mill Theatre's "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," you can have a rollicking good time trying.

Starting with first-date jitters and ending with picking up dates at funeral homes, this show uses every stage in the progression of a relationship as a launching point for sketches that are often hilarious, occasionally poignant and always insightful. Thanks to a winning cast of four accomplished stage vets, this is one of those rare shows that you wish would never end.

Director Tom Width gives many of the choicest parts to Derek Phipps, and the versatile actor does wonders with them, starting with a scene titled "The Tear Jerk." When dragged on a date to a "chick flick," he battles against unexpected emotions welling up inside him to uproarious effect. In succeeding sketches he portrays everything from a jumpsuit-wearing convict to a pretzel-chomping football fanatic with comic panache.

Each of the other cast members finds moments to shine as well. Janine Russo provides the show's first tender moment with her pitch-perfect rendition of the sweetly anticipatory "I Will Be Loved Tonight." In the show's second act, the focus shifts from courtship to marriage, and Jacquie O'Connor and Paul Deiss expertly capture the complex dynamics between couples, including slapsticky and volatile in "Marriage Tango" and subtle and bittersweet in "Shouldn't I Be Less in Love With You?"

Costume designer Maura Lynn Cravey enhances each scene with appropriate outfits, including one of the ugliest bridesmaid's dresses ever, and the piano-and-violin accompaniment is crisp and superb. This is a production guaranteed to appeal to everyone, both romantics and cynics alike. S

"I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" is playing at Swift Creek Mill Theatre in Colonial Heights Thursday through Sunday nights at 8 with selected matinees through Oct. 28. Tickets are $28.50-$33.50. Information available at 748-5203.

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