Take the gravest of heed, and take it well and truly. This is neither a drill nor a pharmaceutically induced flashback to those grand and glorious days beyond recall. Reality has left its latest imprint on downtown San Diego, an imprint as chilling as it is imperious.
The Fritz Theatre-those bare-bodied bad-boys of the boards, those pusillanimous purveyors of prurience, those racy, raucous, renegade raconteurs of raunch who've been kicked out of three venues since the group's founding in 1991-is staging a musical by the authors of The Fantasticks.
At a dinner theater in the basement of the 6th Avenue Bistro!
No reason to stop the presses just yet; the group is gearing up as planned for its annual Fritz Blitz festival of cutting-edge new plays in August. But the thought of the firebrand Fritz mounting Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's saccharine I Do! I Do! is enough to send the group's following on a Dramamine run. If you're rationalizing this one, you prolly also like your centerfolds fully clothed.
But you know what? For all its pristineness, this show works. And it works very, very well. Not only is the 1966 Tony-winning text a fine piece of commercial craftsmanship; its eloquence beckons reflection on marriage as a gift that transcends its place as an affair of state.
Veterans Duane Daniels and Leigh Scarritt play Michael and Agnes, whose 50-year union traces the rigors of parenthood, his adultery, her wanderlust and the infirmities of old age. Daniels and Scarritt are a touch too diametric in their bearings during later scenes, but Daniels' gawky intellectual is a readable complement to Scarritt's sweet ingenue. They're in lovely voice under hands-off director Bradley Flanagan and alongside Rayme Sciaroni's piano accompaniment.
Librettist-lyricist Jones and composer Schmidt deftly adapted the work from Jan de Hartog's smash The Fourposter, just as The Fantasticks spoofs the family feuds in Romeo and Juliet. You'll recognize some tunes, including the Ed Ames hit "My Cup Runneth Over."
Some say the recent events surrounding same-sex unions in Massachusetts sound the death knell for marriage as Americans know it. That faction is donning its typically alarmist countenance, one that might soften against the simple embroidery on a pillow atop the couple's bed. "God Is Love," it reads-and suddenly, the Fritz' checkered past pales against a seminal perspective both artistically satisfying and morally profound.
Meanwhile: Who'd-a thunk. The Fritz is staging I Do! I Do!
And at this writing, the Padres are three percentage points out of first, with a quarter of the season gone.
The powers that be are seriously effing up a couple assignments. Maybe it's the ether. ©
This review is based on the opening night production of May 22. I Do! I Do! runs through June 19 at the 6th Avenue Bistro's downstairs cabaret, 1165 Sixth Avenue. $41-$46. 619-239-4196.