|Kendra Kassebaum and Peter Saide in I Do, I Do (Tracy Martin)|
I Do, I Do
Issaquah: through February 24, 2019 Everett: March 1-24, 2019
The little operetta, I Do, I Do, is not done very often, so I anticipated it a treat to be able to see an almost-lost musical such as this on stage. Village Theatre is mounting this show with two solid performers: local firebrand, Kendra Kassebaum, and imported leading-man, Peter Saide. Saide is lovely in the role, as a good singer, an adept dancer to director/choreographer Michael Arnold’s old-timey dances, and provides solid acting in the range of emotions the character goes through. (I just still wonder if there was a need to bring in talent with all the available men here who might easily do the role.)
I Do, I Do is pretty formulaic and there is almost nothing surprising about it. You can guess it’s the story, through song, of the life of a marriage. This one happens to begin, per the story it was built on, in 1895 and extend to 1945. The play, The Fourposter, by Jan de Hartog, was the genesis of the musical.
The writers of The Fantasticks, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, took on this play and wrote a bucket of songs with few intermediate words of dialogue. Since it was a two-hander with a unit set (translation: only two actors on one set that doesn’t change), it was cheap to present and easy to make production cost investments back.
Most of the songs are not ones that travelled into the public sphere of song hits, though they’re generally pleasing and easy to understand musically. So, you’re not likely to know them beforehand.
The actors are wonderful and well-cast. They make it a pleasant evening.
The biggest problem is with the production choices, which is a surprise, since usually, Village does top-notch technical work. And it’s not at all “shoddy” – in fact, it’s fussy! Meticulous and completely overbuilt. This is a one set show that calls for simple and clean bedroom items. What they’ve chosen to do is build an enormous wardrobe, with fold out bed, lots of attached closets and additional cubbies on the side.
Then the whole dang set MOVES. It “faces” toward one married partner and then turns to “face” the other. There’s lots of opening of cubbies to reveal a dining room table or a desk. Sure, there’s a need for storing quick-change costuming, but the actors are constantly scrambling to open or close doors. Frankly, I think it takes away from both the story and the actors’ ability to relate to each other.
The musical itself seems not to have been dramaturgically double-checked: how far apart are the two children? Two years? Or four? At one point, the children are two years apart and another, the boy is 16 and the girl just got her first bra (so 11?).
More fussiness comes with the “flying in” of clotheslines hung with clothing, where once was cute, but several times is device overkill. We might try guessing why all this “stuff” goes on in a simple musical – maybe Arnold and crew didn’t trust the audience to be satisfied with something simple and straightforward. Maybe they felt they had to “dramatize” it. I can promise that it really didn’t help the production.
Here, the production presents two baby carriages on stage with two infants even though years have passed between births. And where are the hints of the 1920s clothing styles or 1940s? While there are perfectly serviceable pregnancy bump changes, there’s no cognizance of changes of actual history.
There is a production guide that makes some good comments on some of the anachronisms in an old show that people might have some difficulties with from a 2019 viewpoint:
It doesn’t mention the most offensive lyric, at least from my point of view: In the song, What Is A Woman, the lyric is, “To be a woman, Means being lonely. That's why a woman is only, Alive when in love.” It’s very hard to forgive those lyrics – but again, it’s an old show, written by men. Kassebaum does her very best to put over the song because she’s a terrific performer.
If you’re curious about this musical or you love Kassebaum (like I do) and just want more chance to hear her sing, then by all means give it a whirl.
For more information, go to www.villagetheatre.org or call 425-392-2202.