By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
There is at least one clear winner among the eight plays in FIT rotation: Sunny and Eddie Sitting in a Tree, an inspiring romantic comedy by local playwright Matt Lyle that's performed by the thoroughly funny Bootstraps Comedy Theater company. The premise, two people falling in love at their therapist's office, has the potential to become trite but escapes that fate through painfully human dialogue, stories too embarrassing to be taken from anything but real life and a genuine appreciation for silliness that's refreshing.
Taking obvious but carefully controlled cues from Woody Allen and Cameron Crowe, Sunny and Eddie feels as much like a film as a play. It's got all the overt physical outrageousness of live theater--the clown bit is particularly entertaining, and the part with the 8-foot Cyclops just wouldn't be nearly as funny on the screen--but nervous eye movement, lip-biting and finger-drumming say just as much at key moments.
Kim Lyle's Sunny starts out thoroughly overacted with only a damn funny script to make her endearing, but she finds her groove near the middle of the play and becomes much more likable. The neurotic Eddie, immediately enamored of Sunny, is lovingly played by the show's writer, Matt Lyle. The small supporting cast, given roles ranging from Bible-beating online daters to gay dads, provide just the right amount of texture.
The most remarkable aspect of Sunny and Eddie, however, is the recognition of how powerful the right music can be at the right time. Every scene change is punctuated by the soundtrack of Sunny and Eddie's twentysomething generation. Audience members actually started singing along with the Polyphonic Spree, and no song could better capture Sunny and Eddie's awkward offstage love scene than Bright Eyes' "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)." Where other FIT plays forget their audience, Sunny and Eddie knows them intimately, and the details are filled in effortlessly. The whole thing comes off feeling--gasp--practically professional.
A note to FIT plays' producers and directors: Treat the devil and his details right, and you'll be rewarded. Treat the devil wrong, and you'll end up with that most undesirable of outcomes: local theater that looks, feels and sounds like local theater.