by Beki Pineda
THE SUNSHINE BOYS – Written by Neil Simon; Directed by Bernie Cardell. Produced by Vintage Theatre (1468 Dayton, Aurora) through September 9. Tickets available at 303-856-7830 or vintagetheatre.com.
Noted Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean is the first attributed with the famous quote, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” But the two old pros in SUNSHINE BOYS make comedy look easy. Roger Simon and Joey Wishnia have over one hundred years of comedy between them; you can’t beat their record for experience. It shows. They have perfected deadpan delivery; their pathos is genuine; they are comic without seeming to making an effort.
Neil Simon’s timeless script first produced in 1972 was attributed to be based on the careers of either Smith and Dale or Gallagher and Shean, vaudeville duos who ended badly. But a break-up closer to home was the 1956 dissolution of the popular TV team of Martin and Lewis. They too were separated for nearly twenty years but reunited their friendship near the end of both their lives.
Lewis (Wishnia) and Clark (Simon) were a successful vaudeville team that broke up twelve years ago over petty but potent disagreements. They have both grown old but have not lost their gift for comedy. Clark’s nephew (Marcus Turner), a talent agent, has promised a reunion as part of a television special on the history of comedy. Now he has to make it happen and uses his own brand of personal blackmail to get them into the same room and let nature take its course.
While it is the story of Lewis and Clark, the two brilliant actors are ably supported by the remainder of the cast. Marcus Turner does an admirable job as the harried nephew who has genuine affection for his uncle in spite of the delight he takes in tormenting him. David Cervera is a nervous stage manager at the TV station and also plays a patient in the skit the men perform. Kristine Bachicha is the “doctor’s” sexy nurse also in the TV skit while Ghandia Johnson brings an authentic sassy persona to Clark’s real life nurse.
Director Bernie Cardell, while fulfilling the bucket list dreams of actors Roger Simon and Joey Wishnia, also added his instinctive comic timing to the direction of the show. Then just got out of the way and let them play. Phil Cope’s clever scenic design allows for a quick transition from apartment to TV studio and back in the Vintage’s small Bond-Trimble Theatre. Julie LeMieux’s cute paint job on the TV skit set eliminated the need for additional furniture. Another successful production for this theatre which has become a “go to” place for discerning patrons.
A Wow factor of 9!!