Austen Powered


New York has lost much of its charm over the past few decades but, happily, little of its spirit. You know that the latter’s still alive from a musical like I Love You Because, a bouncy, silly, spirited show, written and staged by the young for the young. Slight, modest, and flawed, it’s no masterpiece; its charm is simply that it’s too busy being young in the big city to bother about anything more serious. Allegedly adapted from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it has no earnest agendas and no ornate concepts; it’s just out to enjoy itself, and the feeling is, intermittently, infectious.

Austen’s Bennet family, downsized and gender- reversed, becomes two Bennet brothers, comically entangled with Marcy Fitzwilliams and Diana Bingley. The complications that family and social convention provide in Jane’s novel are replaced by singles-bar misunderstandings and latte-fueled frenzies. If much of the foolery’s unconvincing—don’t these kids lock their apartment doors?—it’s often genuinely appealing, particularly as juggled by David A. Austin and Stephanie D’Abruzzo, playing the lesser Bennet bro and his Ms. Bingley. (Austin, a nimble-bodied, ski-schnozzed clown, is a genuine comic discovery.) Daniel Kutner’s direction is suitably speedy, Christopher Gattelli’s choreography playfully inventive. Though unlikely to linger in the memory, Cunningham and Salzman’s songs rarely torture the ears; the sweet cluelessness of trying to update Jane Austen has a foolhardy appeal of its own.

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