Party of 2-The Mating Musical…a musical gem

Love is what you've been through with somebody.
James Thurber

If you believe in love, and well you should, you must not miss this delightful bon-bon, a mini-operetta about the relationship of two independent people who meet, mate and move in together. Although the songs are light, the mood is humorous and the theatrical experience charming and fun. Yet, the observations in this fast-paced and captivating production are profound and all too true. All of us want love and when we think we have found it, we watch horrified as that beautiful moment we just discovered fades into the grim reality of toothpaste tubes squeezed in the middle, hurtful remarks and disgusting habits that eat away the magic and burst that glittering balloon of perfection you once thought you had. Morris Bobrow has created memorable tunes with facile lyrics that belie the importance of the message Jennifer Ekman and Scott Gessford sing to a rapt, spell-bound audience.

Charlie (Scott Gessford) sings about the ideal person he seeks and says he wants “basically a female version of me.” Rebecca (Jennifer Ekman) is so busy with her career that she has no time for romance…until the two meet at a wedding. The chemistry between them is so powerful that they fall in love instantly despite their intellectual reservations about love at first sight. We actually feel their initial delight in one another when Rebecca’s says “Love is perfect when it’s new”. As they spend more and more time together (chronicled in each song), we see the fascination begin to fade. There is a sudden surge of excitement when the relationship is consummated; yet there is also a little nagging doubt when Rebecca wonders how Charlie got so good. Every member of the audience recognizes the signs because they have felt them and have felt betrayed by inevitable disenchantment when they notice those little things that tear at the most powerful attraction.

There are some wonderful moments in this musical and the amazing thing is that although the script walks a fine line between trite and clichéd, it is so skillfully crafted that it never descends to the maudlin. The two stars, Ekman and Gessford make the entire experience sublime. They are authentic and involved in every routine on stage and they are delightful. On a scale of ten, I give them both at least a twelve. Their acting is top notch. The audience is swept into the personas of these talented singers and never doubt for a moment the spectrum of emotions they feel. They are real lovers who want to stay loving and are not sure how to make it happen.

Bobrow’s lyrics may seem facile and cute, but listen closely and you will see that they are so much more. They show an intelligent depth and understanding of human nature, its foibles and its penchant to rip itself into shreds of doubt. We are indeed our own worse enemies and in a relationship, the discomfort we create for ourselves doubles. Every sequence contains a solid nugget of really lovely truth, like when the two sing “If we can do nothing together, then there’s nothing we can’t do.” When the couple tries to add a bit of excitement to their sex life by watching pornography, Charlie is obviously uncomfortable and Rebecca realizes they are watching movies about women dreamed up by men. So funny…so real…so true.

You do not want to miss this wonderful slice of modern reality and discover Bobrow’s solution to the souring relationship and the uncomfortable marriage. You may laugh at his resolution, but you will want to consider it. Only the most cynical will dismiss it as impossible.

Angela Dwyer accompanies and never intrudes on the singing, and Jayne Zaban did a tasteful, imaginative job of moving the couple individually and together through the production. Indeed, all the songs are memorable, but her choreography makes them brilliant. The costuming highlights but never detracts. The pace of this musical is perfect, the singing unforgettable and the script as authentic as it is funny… this reviewer cannot think of a better way to spend a Friday evening.

Party of Two continues Friday evenings at The Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter Street, San Francisco. Tickets are $29 general and $27 for seniors and students. Reservations and information: 800 838 3006 or visit www.partyof2themusical.