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”I Love You Because,” the fabulously entertaining musical now lighting up the stage at Redwood Curtain, not only continues its 16th Season, but also premieres their first-time-ever production in partnership with the North Coast's long-time, iconic producers of musical theater, Humboldt Light Opera company.

For the past 40 years, HLOC shows have been presented in the area's largest venues (such as HSU's Van Duzer) to accommodate their summer stagings of big, classic (generally “conservative” and “safe”) Broadway hits with equally large ensemble casts.

Although relatively recently, the troupe also began to perform “smaller” and increasingly “edgier” contemporary musicals (such as “The Full Monty”) in the Forum Theatre at College of the Redwoods, their co-production of “I Love You Because” at Redwood Curtain is their very first performed in such an intimate space -- and the end result couldn't be better!

HLOC veteran director, Carol Ryder, has chosen the perfect cast to inhabit each of the delightfully quirky characters that made the original Off-Broadway production (a modern-day, Manhattan NY musical love story) such a hit.

Redwood Curtain audiences will also relate to them as well. There's Craig Waldvogal, believable and endearing as Austin Bennet, a wannabe romantic poet who instead has had to “settle” for being a greeting card writer. He's trying to get over being cheated on by Catherine, his girlfriend of five years, but can't.

On the other hand, his womanizing brother, Jeff (Gino Bloomberg in a hilarious performance) is always on the prowl. As a none-too-bright charmer who murders the simplest metaphors, Bloomberg is a foul-mouthed delight as he deftly delivers some top-notch slapstick.

Jeff tries to convince the unadventurous, meticulous Austin that the best way to win Catherine back, is to “ignore her” and “move on.” Eventually, Austin reluctantly agrees to let him set them both up with blind dates through an online, Jewish (they're not) dating service.

Meanwhile the audience has also been watching the equally bummed-out results of another recently ruined romance -- that of free-spirited photographer Marcy Fitzwilliams (Sarah Mullens), who has been dumped by boyfriend Larry. Mullens is sweetly feisty as someone who has all but given up on finding true love.

She, too, has been being encouraged to “get out there” -- but with a definite plan of action laid out by her also single-and- searching best friend, actuary/accountant Diana Bingley (a surprisingly lusty Amy Chalfant). Diana believes the best way to find “Mr. Right” is to hook up with “Mr. Wrong.”

And, she's right. Who could be more “wrong” for both of them than the guys they're about to meet? Of course, that would be their “J-Date” blind dates at the neighborhood coffee shop, their completely “wrong” potential mates, Austin and Jeff.

What happens next is poignant, outrageous fun as the plot progresses, all commented upon by multiple, cameo NYC neighborhood characters smoothly portrayed by Shaelan Salas-Rich and Carl McGahan.

Throughout, the exceptional ensemble also irresistibly delivers both tender and powerful vocals as they conquer Joshua Salzman's clever, challenging musical score and Ryan Cunningham's witty, insightful lyrics -- accompanied with professional polish on keyboard by musical director Laura Welch.

The character-driven songs include: “Another Saturday Night in New York”; “But I Don't Want to Talk About Her”; “Perfect Romance”; “We're Just Friends”; “Maybe We Just Made Love”; “What Do We Do It For”; “Alone”; and of course, “I Love You Because.”

The production is further enhanced by the simple-but-effective, abstract scenic and lighting designs by Jayson Mohatt, with light and sound boards run by Bonnie Cyr. (Pre-recorded, short love stories are also played between scenes.)

Scenic construction is by Meeka Day; master electrician is Liz Uhazy; properties wrangler is Hannah Jones; and Carol Lang stage manages assisted by Olivia McGahan. 

Kudos to HLOC and Redwood Curtain for so successfully staging their first co-production! It's obviously the beginning of a beautiful, artistic relationship!

Suitable for mature audiences (PG-13 or older), this terrific musical continues through May 17 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. (There is no late seating).

Tickets are $15 (except on Thursdays, with two for $20); purchase them securely online at www.redwoodcurtain.com.

Advance reservations are highly recommended due to the venue's limited seating (90).

To reserve tickets, go to boxoffice@redwoodcurtain.com or call 443-7688. Redwood Curtain is located at 220 First St. between C and D streets in Old Town Eureka. The main entrance is through Snug Alley.

Photo captions:

1. Sarah Mullen and Craig Waldvogel star in “I Love You Because” showing now through May17 at Redwood Curtain.

2. Gino Bloomberg and Amy Chalfant in Redwood Curtain's “I Love You Because.”