CATCO’s Dated but Frothy and Charming I Do! I Do!
CATCO closes their 2016-17 season with the 1968 hit I Do! I Do!, written by Tom Jones (book and lyrics) and Harvey Schmidt (music), in a production directed by Steven C. Anderson. This production features real-life married couple Liz Wheeler as Agnes Snow and CATCO’s Associate Producing Director Joe Bishara as Michael Snow.
I Do! I Do! opens with the Snow couple saying those words and follows the pair through forty-plus years of marriage. It zooms in on this time period and relationship to just these two characters and sets it wholly (except for the opening scene) in their bedroom. The slight allusion to modernism in Darin Keesing’s set is the four modular chests most often pushed together as the couple’s marital bed but also separated and used to produce props. Anderson’s direction uses this set to underscore the metaphor with periods of separation and periods of unification.
The production mostly handles the passage of time well. Bishara and Wheeler imply years in subtle gestures that add to but never break from what we already know about the characters. Sarah Russell’s costumes help this immeasurably as she creates wardrobes for two distinct people who change as they age but don’t deviate from their taste. However, the book and many of the lyrics are very dated, leaving no sitcom cliché of the last sixty years unexhumed. The conceptual restrictions of the piece can also work against it. A sequence revealing Michael’s affair, which causes Agnes to fantasize about a life on her own, carries diminished weight being immediately followed by their reconciliation, with no one else to cut away to.
Despite the rickety book, I Do! I Do!’s luminous score still charms. Bishara and Wheeler soar on those catchy, light Schmidt-Jones songs. There’s also abundant, unforced charm between the two; they treat the frothy material with the touch it deserves. Even the ponderous moments – the running motif where the husband in the relationship doesn’t feel appreciated enough – are treated with a lightness and warmth that keeps the production from getting bogged down. The actors, with Anderson’s direction, do a superb job of understanding the age and provenance of the play and walking the tightrope of acknowledging that ensuing years have changed meanings and emphasis without turning everything into a cheap double entendre.
There’s nothing new in I Do! I Do!. But there are two delightful performances, well-staged, and songs you’ll leave the theater humming.
I Do! I Do! runs through June 18 with shows at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2:00 p.m. Sunday. For tickets and more info, visit catco.org/shows/2016-2017/i-do-i-do.