The contemporary musical I Love You Because is so like its characters: young, a little grating, and desperately eager to be liked. It's also a pale shadow of a greater work — in this case, based very loosely on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice — that hasn't matured into its own yet.
That's not to say it isn't charming at times, but this is due mainly to Our Productions Theatre Co.'s experienced cast. Vibrant and attractive, the three men and three women give the weak material an admirable go despite it trying to drag them down at every turn.
Ryan Cunningham's book treads heavily in stereotypes, while Joshua Salzman's music all bleeds together in one idealistic lump, proffering nary a stand-out tune in the entire two-and-a-half hours. The cast sounds great thanks to music director Mark Mullino — you just wish they were singing better songs.
The recently dumped Marcy (Juliette Talley, lovely though too neurotic for her character's supposed free spiritedness) goes along with her numbers-focused best friend Diana, who has a formula to get them both through Mr. Wrong so they can find Mr. Right. Monique Abry tries to make Diana more than just the wingwoman, but the relationship she gets stuck with reinforces how little importance her character actually has.
She meets Jeff through J-Date, and he brings along his brother, Austin, for Marcy. None of them are Jewish, Jeff is a man-child, and Austin is a buttoned-up bro who can't stop picking at the fresh wound of his ex. In Diana's eyes, this is all perfect for a final fling before she and Marcy go on to meet their soul mates.
Kyle Montgomery gets to display his comic chops and zippy timing as the boorish Jeff, giving off an air of sloppy disrespect that would be appalling if he weren't so funny. Rashaun Sibley's Austin doesn't radiate "control freak" as much as he should, but his earnestness buoys what's essentially a dull character.
Kathryn Taylor Rose and Joey Donoian flutter in and out, serving as a Greek chorus of bartenders, baristas, and orbiting New Yorkers. They're given the chance to come up with an array of broad characters (director Stephanie Riggs Kirkham makes sure they're never idle), but their ingenuity nearly goes out the window when they're tasked with a racist portrayal at a Chinese restaurant. Cunningham, did no one caution you there?
Our Productions Theatre Co.'s I Love You Because runs through September 3 at the WaterTower Theatre studio space.