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a sweet hit of an off-broadway show, “i love you because” is currently running at the know theatre. the surprisingly good thesis project of two nyu students, the show follows the lives of four youngish new yorkers in search of, well, that elusive “something” that draws, and maybe even keeps, two people together.

fang du’s austin is so adorable as an uptight, tie-wearing republican that you just want to wrap him and shake him ’til he rattles and loosens up and starts ordering electric-colored drinks with cute little umbrellas. as his brother jeff, daniel s. hines and his ’80s fashion (non)sense — the too-high-waisted jeans worn with white tennis shoes, the moussed-into-spikes-hair — hits a nice counterpoint to his sweet vulnerability (how many guys do you know who would cry over a my little pony abacus?). courtney brown’s marcy fitzwilliams is a believable bohemian who unintentionally sweeps austin off his feet, while jenny guy as diana bingley seems to capture exactly what it is like to be a sex-starved actuary (at least, i think she does…since i’m not much of a number girl myself it’s hard to say).  

“i love you because” is a musical, which after seeing “christmas yet to come” i believed was not the know’s strength. while i’m still not sure it is, this production has better-balanced sound and fewer out-of-tune tunes, making it much more enjoyable. the show’s instrumental quintet sits behind the stage in the midst of the new york city silhouette that is the play’s backdrop, and while at times i wanted their volume to drop so that i could better hear the actors’ voices, it’s a nice touch to have live music as a literal backdrop to the play.

my favorite things about the know are still the space and the ambiance. the bar/lounge area is a nice spot for a pre-show drink, with an eclectic decorative mix of urban industrial and public-school cafeteria. plus i like being able to sip slowly on my cocktail and take it with me into the theatre instead of guzzling it (or tossing it) at the door. the theatre space itself has a funky urban feel, with its steel stairs and metal grates leading up to what is basically a black loft with a stage area. given the group’s smallish space and minimal funds for sets and props, the shows we’ve seen imaginatively create various senses of place to carry the actors through their scenes. it’s a theatre for our times: economical and funky, doing good work with the resources at hand, it provides work for young up and coming actors and affordable entertainment for those of us who love theater.

i miss my days as an undergrad when i could get a rush ticket to big-city theatres for $5. but with $12 tix (shout out to the know for that one!), as well as a ticket stub worth 20% off a meal at the nearby mixx, a night at the know can fit into even a frugal budget. and everybody loves that.

“i love you because” runs through february 21. showtimes and more information about tickets at knowtheatre.com or 513-300-5669. curious but not ready to commit? check out a youtube clip, here.

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