Play is perfect for your pre-VDay date

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and whether you’re bubbling over with excitement or sick with dread, one thing’s for certain: there are things to be said for being off the market, and for staying on.

Poke fun at everything romance-related, from excruciating first dates to friends with benefits to the “where is this going” conversation with “I Love You Because” – a witty, entertaining, modern-day musical about making it or breaking it on the relationship circuit. This off-Broadway hit is making its wildly funny debut at the Actors Playhouse at the Miracle Theater from now until Feb. 11, 2007.

For you lovebirds out there, its not all cynical or satirical, plenty of sentimentality is thread throughout. “I Love You Because” is actually the present-day, gender-reversed retelling of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” (Men: please do not stop reading).

Uber-conservative, calculated Austin Bennet (Euriamis “E.L.” Losada) has just caught his long-term girlfriend cheating on him. To help him move on, his not-so-bright commitment-phobic brother, Jeff (Christopher A. Kent), sets the two of them up with two women he found on J-Date.

Meanwhile Marcy Fitzwilliams (Jennifer Hughes), a quirky, spontaneous liberal, has just gotten rid of her jerk of an ex-boyfriend, and has been convinced by her very systematic best friend, Diana (Irene Adjan), that in order to find Mr. Right she must first date Mr. Wrong. As Marcy and Austin meet and their lives become intertwined, comedy ensues.

Everything about “I Love You Because” is spot-on. The small ensemble cast (just these four actors plus two multi-character extras) act naturally together, creating a highly believable dynamic. The musical numbers, while many are comedic in nature, are also very well-performed. Powerful ballad “But I Do” showcases the ensemble’s talents as individuals and their synergetic and pleasing harmonies as a group.

Hughes, a University of Miami graduate who got her start as an intern at the Actors Playhouse, has certainly come a long way to star in what should prove to be a hit among her fellow Hurricanes.

Another highlight is the waggish writing (Ryan Cunningham and Josua Salzman). Jeff’s character especially, is appropriately and hysterically vulgar. Some of the subject matter in “I Love You Because” is not for the easily-embarrassed prude – the elderly couple next to me left before the start of the second act.

Songs “We’re Just Friends” and “That’s What’s Gonna Happen” are crude, but oh-so-funny looks at relationship realities facing young people today.

A little bit “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” a little bit “When Harry Met Sally,” “I Love You Because” is perfect for a first date, a fiftieth date or just a night with friends. Everyone will be able to relate to it, laugh at the actors on stage and laugh at themselves because they know they’ve been there before. Well-written, well-acted, well-performed, “I Love You Because” has all the ingredients for a delicious time. Ladies: suggest “I Love You Because” to your boyfriend (or man-of-the-moment); he might protest at first, but I guarantee he will love it, (my boyfriend was practically rolling in the aisles).

“I Love You Because” can be seen at the Actors Playhouse at The Miracle Theater in Coral Gables Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Student tickets are $15 the day of the show. “I Love You Because” runs until Feb. 11. For more information, call the box office at 305-444-9293.

Dani McNally can be contacted at