BWW Review: Birmingham has a Bright Comedy in THE SUNSHINE BOYS at the Virginia Samford Theatre
Before you snuggle into that sweet spot on the sofa to laugh while binge watching your favorite sitcom on Netflix. Put the remote down and get out to enjoy real comedy in one of Neil Simon's funniest plays "The Sunshine Boys" playing at the Virginia Samford Theatre. This hilarious play is stocked with solid characters, well-structured comedy, and wit riding on rocket fire dialogue.
The quick and funny banter plays like a fast moving fencing match between two old show biz partners. Quips, one liners and witty humor come at you at a perfect pace. If you are not familiar with Neil Simon's work, he is a master storyteller with a honed use of comedy through verbal acrobatics and robust characters. The plot follows two aging vaudeville headliners who are tossed back together. After 43 years as a duo in show business, a wedge grew between them when Al Lewis (Jesse Bates) decided he had enough of the act and retired. The split upset the hard edged Willie (Howard Green), and they stopped speaking to each other. Flash forward 15 years. Willie's talent agent/nephew Ben (Noah Duffy) gets notice that CBS want Lewis and Clark to perform on a big TV reunion show. Ben is struggling to convince his cranky uncle to seize the opportunity. Willie is stubborn as a mule but finally gives in to at least meet with Al. The two reunite with comical oil and water. Simon's hilarious writing builds on how the duos mutual agitation has grown with age. Underneath the abrasiveness toward each other they both hold a deep friendship.
The comedy works with serious notes to the effects and discrimination attached with growing older. Actors Green (Willie) and Bates (Al) have an honest delivery of the two cantankerous old men who are codependent on facing years of hostility behind them and an uncertainty ahead. The chemistry of Bates and Green performance rings with echoes of another Neil Simon classic, "The Odd Couple." They are a perfect pairing and feed will off each other's stage presence and line deliveries. It's a joy to watch Green and Bates go back and forth.
The cast is rounded out with Noah Duffy as Ben, the neurotic nephew/talent agent. Michelle Griffo as the sassy Registered Nurse. Michael Wilbanks as Eddie the heated CBS assistant, and Christina Robin as the cartoonishly curvaceous Nurse.
Director Clay Boyce delivers the proper tone and pace to this classic. He treats the material with care to structuring the right mix the comical beats along with heartfelt sincerity. It's funny production and full of a vibrant vaudeville sprit.
"The Sunshine Boys" has laughs and smiles that harken back to the golden age of television. This production gives life to great characters and snappy deliveries. They capture the magic in Neil Simon's writing and invite you to "ENTER!"
The Virginia Samford Theatre
The Sunshine Boys
Written by Neil Simon
Directed by Clay
Martha Moore Sykes Studio Theatre
at the Virginia Samford Theatre
1116 26th St S, Birmingham, Alabama 35205
May 24 - June 3, 2018
Thurs - Sat at 7:30 (Sunday Matinee at 2:30pm)
Tickets: $25 and $15 Student (General Admission)
For tickets and info: (205) 251-1206 or visit virginiasamfordtheatre.org
Photo Credit: Steven Ross