It’s September, which means the arts season has finally opened! As much as I have enjoyed my outdoorsy adventures, it has been a long summer without (much) theater.
My own season began with Mr. Perfect at Bas Bleu Theatre in Fort Collins. Written and directed by William Missouri Downs, this romantic comedy introduces us to Zooey, a flight attendant whose expectations for love are sky high. Zooey has chased away her potential suitors with her outright obsession with bodice-ripping romance novels; she has listened to so many steamy audiobooks that no man short of Mr. Darcy can measure up.
Brikai Cordova hits the right notes as Zooey: coquettish, starry-eyed, bouncy, naive. When at one point we see Welsh Corgi pillows in Zooey’s bedroom, something clicks — Zooey resembles the perky dog right down to the eager tail wag.
Zooey’s not-quite-Darcy is Jeff (Adam Verner), the voice behind many of Zooey’s favorite audiobooks. The two attempt to hook up in an airplane bathroom but, try as she might, Zooey can’t stay swept off her feet. The would-be couple parts ways when Zooey would rather live out the story in her head than engage with the real man standing in front of her. (Well, if not standing, then crouching… it is an airplane bathroom, after all.)
This is an overarching theme of Mr. Perfect: in our quest for a fairytale life, are we overlooking the happiness staring us in the face? Do we do ourselves a disservice when we insist each aspect of our lives carry meaning, purpose? Donna (Dominique Mickelson), a self-help book author, and Ralph (Graeme Schulz), a priest with an ulterior motive, grapple with similar issues as they each try to divine meaning from catastrophes in their life and in their love.
I had a difficult time connecting to any of the characters; they are each so concentrated on the story of their own lives that they necessarily come off as narcissistic. When love matches are eventually made, I did not sense the chemistry behind it. Instead, the lesson “love does not have to be perfect” looks an awful lot like “go ahead and settle, because love is not perfect.” However, playwright Downs has loaded this comedy with enough wit — and Cordova, in particular, brings enough energy — that the play is a good time whether or not the moral completely lands.
Zhanna Gurvich’s scenic designs are straightforward: an office, a bedroom, a cleverly snug bathroom stall. The stage is flanked with oddball doors which, if you pay close attention, offer some geeky in-jokes. (Why exactly the doors are there, I am not sure — perhaps to symbolize the choices we make every day? Or to simply create some wing space?) The lighting and sound are simple; this is a show focused on its substance, not its set dressing, and it works just fine.
Unlike Zooey (or Downs, whose crying at 27 Dresses forced his wife to leave a movie theater), most days I do not seek out a romantic comedy. I’m rarely drawn in by will-they-won’t-they. I don’t swoon. I appreciated that Mr. Perfect gave me questions to chew on, tucked between the scenes about the Mile High Club and light dominatrix behavior. Downs calls it a “philosophical comedy,” a genre I feel I could get on board with.
P.S. Being new to Fort Collins myself, I found it a particular delight to see Brikai Cordova and Dominique Mickelson on stage — I recognized Cordova from OpenStage’s And Then There Were None and Mickelson from Bas Bleu’s Waiting for the Parade. The fact that I am beginning to recognize actors makes me feel like I might just be home.