Dallas — Dallas-based playwright Matt Lyle has many hits under his belt by now, some of which have played regional and fringe festival theaters since he wrote The Boxer 10 years ago, where it became an instant fan favorite in its original Bootstrap Comedy Theater production at the 2007 Festival of Independent Theaters.
The Boxer, which was subsequently revived in Dallas and played the New York International Fringe Festival, is back at FIT this year and directed by Lyle, and still knocking out fans with its silent film-inspired play on the classic theme of boy meets guy he loves and guy turns out to be a real live girl, and everything’s swell. Many of the roles are reprised—and you’d hardly know a decade has passed in these actors’ careers.
Here, Velma (a feisty, funny Kim Lyle, the playwright’s wife and original muse for the show) is a curly-girly male impersonator tucking her hair under a derby and trying to make it in the big city in the 30s when women can’t earn a living wage. Through a spurious knock-down (go see it), Velma becomes the default trainer of a down-and-out Boxer (the auto love-and-laugh-provoking Jeff Swearingen, looking flimsy fit and funnier than ever).
From there on, it’s an hour of sheer comic delight. Elegant ragtime pianist B. Wolf provides the mood and melodies for each and every scene, employing tunes like “Money Makes the
World Go Round” from Cabaret to “Give Me Some Men Who Are Stout Hearted Men” from Gilbert and Sullivan, and all kinds of cool stuff in between. Johnny Sequenzia, on strings and Foley effects (love the cartoon-sounding knock-out noises), does everything else. He even winks at the hapless Boxer when he figures out what’s going on.
Wolf and Sequenzia are so precise and excellent, they might just steal the show, but their skill is balanced by the unparalleled comic timing and presence of Swearingen and Kim Lyle. Skinny and looking like he’s had one too many blows to the head, Swearingen bounces like a loose rubber ball, just waiting to be caught and cradled by beautiful, sly Lyle, her ruffled petticoat just waiting to emerge.
Ben Bryant is hilarious as the Beast the Boxer must finally confront. His big dumb guy scenes with Lyle, Swearingen and company on, off, and all around the theater are classic comedy chase romps.
There are even dream sequences, in which a comic team of dancing fairies (Kineta Massey, Jenny Webb, Cassidy Confer, Cori Martin) appear in golden tutus to lead our heroine into the arms of her beloved shrimp. They even provide a smooching stool so he can reach the target. Love conquers all.
Silent screen videos of training by Karl Schaeffer adds to the fun, and everybody leaves the ring a champ.
The Boxer continues in the following blocks:
- 8 p.m. Friday, July 28
- 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3
Read our interview with Matt Lyle here
See more info about the 2017 Festival of Independent Theatres here.