Story: Agnes and Michael are nervous about their impending marriage. It’s a big step for them at the end of the 19th century, but they’re in love. Michael has aspirations of being a writer, while Agnes will tend to the domestic chores. She’s a virgin, he says he’s not exactly, and the two of them tie the knot and begin their life together.
As the years go by, Michael’s career becomes successful, so much so that he says “It’s a well-known fact” that men become more attractive and women less so as they age as a way of mentioning his infidelity. Agnes has a surprise or two in store for Michael, though, as they draw together, separate and reunite in the span of 50 years, through children, friends and the highs and lows of their marriage.
Highlights: Written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, the pair who collaborated on the world’s longest-running musical, The Fantasticks, this two-act musical is similar to that classic in its ‘small’ approach to a big topic. With just two performers and an accompanying pianist, the current rendition at Dramatic License Productions succeeds on the multiple merits of Pamela Reckamp and Jeffrey Pruett as the couple and the steady support of Justin Smolik at the ivories.
Other Info: Ron Gibbs directs the stylish production, which plays well on the cozy Dramatic License stage. It’s dominated by scenic designer Sean Savoie’s four-poster bed in the center, with a pair of dressing tables and chairs at either side that offer some poignant moments as well, particularly in the penultimate scene when the players apply makeup that transforms them into senior citizens before our eyes. Savoie also provides the lighting design that softly but pointedly illuminates various scenes between the pair.
The setting of the show makes it a sort of time capsule about marriage and American society in general in the early to mid-20th century. After a rather ponderous and precious beginning, Gibbs establishes a pleasant pace and tone that showcases the charm and talents of its two stars.
Reckamp’s considerable comic skills are displayed in an amusing number titled Flaming Agnes, when her character reacts in surprising fashion to her pompous husband’s declaration that he’s having an affair. Sashaying across that sturdy bed in an enormous hat courtesy of props designer Kim Furlow and the courage to match it, Reckamp nicely answers Pruett’s cocky comments in his preceding number, It’s a Well-Known Fact.
It’s enjoyable to hear the memorable ballad, My Cup Runneth Over, in a version that stresses the vocal capabilities of Reckamp and Pruett, with only Smolik’s deft accompaniment to underscore their musical and dramatic savvy.
Both performers handle some deft and slight choreography designed by Gibbs in smooth and assured fashion, whether on the floor or on that signature bed. They’re decked out handsomely in quaint period pieces cleverly designed by costumer Jane Sullivan. They also benefit from the consistently fine accompaniment of pianist Smolik, who sits off stage right and is careful never to drown out the players but rather reinforce and support their efforts.
I Do! I Do! is reminiscent of The Fantasticks in another sense, as it can be surprisingly dark at times. Reckamp, e.g., shines in some judiciously poignant scenes, particularly when she reflects on her empty house and empty life once her children marry in the bittersweet number, What Is a Woman? That represents a realistic effort by Jones, the lyricist and author, to paint this marriage as far from pristine and idealistic in its period setting, although the leaps back and forth from emotional challenges to compromise can seem a tad stretched on occasion.
Dramatic License executive producer Furlow has done a splendid job in the three years of her company in finding and mounting shows that play well with a following that she’s built essentially from scratch. I Do! I Do! is a fine example of that type of theater. With the proven merits of veteran performers Pruett and Reckamp, it’s a gentle, loving tribute not only to marriage but to the perceptive creativity of Jones and Schmidt as well.
Musical: I Do! I Do!
Group: Dramatic License Productions
Venue: Dramatic License Theatre, ARTropolis, Chesterfield Mall
Dates: May 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13
Tickets: $18-$25; contact 636-220-7012 or DramaticLicenseProductions.org
Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Dramatic License Productions