There's something about the dating travails of 20-something singles that makes them ripe for sitcom treatment. Think "Friends" or "How I Met Your Mother."
"I Love You Because," onstage at the Winter Park Playhouse has that vibe. Four walking stereotypes mix and mingle to some pleasing tunes in this little off-Broadway musical by Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham.
Brothers Austin and Jeff Bennet, in fact, could be the leads in "Two and a Half Men"— the current Jon Cryer-Ashton Kutcher version. Austin (Todd Mummert) is the uptight stuffed shirt, obsessing about his ex. Jeff (Christopher Alan Norton) is the laid-back, dippy one with the playboy looks and charm.
Into their lives come two women, frustrated with dating: Live-for-the-moment Marcy (Lulu Picart) and by-the-numbers Diana (Belinda Johnson).
Of course, in the finest sitcom tradition, the mismatched personalities couple up, decide to be friends, then find something more.
That this show rises above its formulaic premise is thanks to a warm-hearted cast.
Under the direction of Roy Alan, Mummert's Austin has more charm than any self-respecting dork should. Norton, who has a way with pickup lines like "Is your name Summer? Because you're hot," also shows a flair for comic timing with his character's frequent, and quite funny, malapropisms.
Johnson's Diana shines with a cute patter song that explains her mathematical formula for rebound dating.
But it's Picart who'll really make you lose your heart — the perky friend who deserves someone who'll appreciate her, quirks and all. Her singing voice suits both the comedy and the heartfelt moments.
Todd Allen Long and Kate Zaloumes add some zing with their supporting parts, and musical director Chris Leavy keeps the piano playing breezy.
There's a reason sitcoms are short in length — when the characters are just a collection of surface traits, there's no reason to belabor their inner thoughts. And the too-long first act of "I Love You Because" spends too much time retreading the same ground.
Still, "I Love You Because" is much like a pleasant night in front of the TV — innocuously entertaining, a fair amount of laughs and nothing complex to keep you awake, brain whirring, when you slip into bed afterward.
If you're lucky, you'll be with someone you love.
'I Love You Because'
•What: A Winter Park Playhouse production of the musical comedy
•Length: 2:30 including intermission
•Where: Winter Park Playhouse, 711-C N. Orange Ave., Winter Park
•When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. on two Sundays, Jan. 29 and Feb. 5; 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9; through Feb. 11
•Tickets: $38; $35 seniors; $28 matinees; $20 students and entertainment-industry professionals
•Call: 407-645-0145Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times