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'I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change:' Off-Broadway hit in Northport

Kate Wetherhead and Benjamin Eakeley in

Kate Wetherhead and Benjamin Eakeley in " I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," playing at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. (July 2012) Credit: AnnMarie Snyder

Call it "Date Flick Live." That's as deep as "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" gets -- even with a first-rate cast and director in this opener of Engeman Theater's sixth season.

One carried-away critic called this long-running Off-Broadway hit (1996-2008) "Seinfeld set to music." But this serial repeater of mating cliches rarely rises to Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David's inventiveness. (Besides, who gets married on "Seinfeld"?)

"I Love You" creators Joe DiPietro (book and lyrics) and Jimmy Roberts (music) have a few inspirations among 20 sketches that take us from first date to a funeral pickup.

Jonathan Collins' minimalist set features a marquee announcing each scene, silent-film style. "Not Tonight, I'm Busy Busy Busy" gets things off to a promising Manhattan-rush-rush start. To save time, Joanna Young and Benjamin Eakeley agree to skip their first and second dates and go directly to ...well, we know what you're thinking. But, happily, the sketch continues beyond the obvious. Which can't be said for some that follow. Men obsessed with football, women with shopping. Guys who hate chick flicks or don't call (though with a twist). There's a married couple frantically scheduling sex, of course. And in "The Family That Drives Together," although the on-wheels choreography (Antoinette DePietropolo) is amusing, the lyrics? Not so much. ("You're driving me crazy.")

Still, there are rewards. On the tender side, Kate Wetherhead and Howie Michael Smith in "The Lasagna Incident" make a cute shy couple who haven't taken it to the next level. But when she invites him over for dinner, it's understood that "I Will Be Loved Tonight." Eakeley delivers a touching "Shouldn't I Be Less in Love With You?" solo to his longtime wife, who barely notices.

Among the more original funny moments: "Satisfaction Guaranteed." (You can guess, but I won't give it away.) A mass-murder convict talks cold-feet couples into commitment in "Scared Straight." And in "The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz," Wetherhead hysterically -- in both senses of the word -- replays her divorce from hell.

BT McNicholl, directing his seventh Engeman show, knows that timing is everything in comedy. Aided by music director James Cunningham, timing works here, if not perfectly.

WHAT "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change"

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday through

Aug. 19, John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St.

INFO $60; 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com

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