BWW Reviews: Terrific Chemistry Makes Keegan Theatre's THE SUNSHINE BOYS Shine
Watching Keegan Theatre's production of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys is akin to watching comedians from your grandparent's generation. There are a few chuckles, a feeling of familiarity and ultimately a sense of twilight on a fading past. Keegan Theatre's production is solid; however the same cannot be said for Neil Simon's play.
The Sunshine Boys concerns former vaudeville team Lewis and Clark as they attempt to reunite for a television special. Despite performing together for 43 years, Clark grew to resent Lewis after he suddenly announced his retirement from show business. Now, after 11 years of not speaking to each other, Lewis and Clark reunite to recreate one of their famed vaudeville sketches for one last show.
The performances of Kevin Adams as Willie Clark and Timothy H. Lynch as Al Lewis are the highlight of this production. Together the on-stage chemistry they radiate is terrific and both seem to relish playing two such cantankerous old stars of yesteryear. Their Act I reunion and first rehearsal in Willie's hotel suite was pure theater magic. While The Sunshine Boys is only a play, the electricity of Adams and Lynch make it seem as if they've been performing together for years as a real comedic team.
Peter Finnegan gives an affectionate performance as Ben Silverman, Willie Clark's long-suffering nephew, agent and caretaker. It's Ben who pitches the television special to Willie, and is ultimately responsible for reuniting Lewis and Clark. Ben has to play straight-man to Willie for much of the play, but in Finnegan's performance you see a nephew who really wants to give his uncle one last performing hurrah!
A lot of credit for the success of Keegan Theatre's The Sunshine Boys must also be given to Director Michael Innocenti who has done a terrific job staging this production. Innocenti's direction ensures that the tension between Lewis and Clark is conveyed both verbally and physically. A high point in the production was a wonderfully staged moment late in Act I when Lewis must walk past Clark to receive a telephone call. Rather than step-aside, both men shuffle past each other showcasing the absurdity in the lengths each will go to avoid the other.
Finally, if there's a problem with The Sunshine Boys it's not with The Keegan Theatre's production but rather Neil Simon's script. Granted even though the play is set in 1980, Simon's material and vaudeville shtick come off as dated, predictable and lacking originality. There's a feeling that even if you've never seen The Sunshine Boys before, Simon's dialogue makes it seem as if you have.
You know the gags and laugh-lines that are coming, and the staleness of Simon's script prevents The Sunshine Boys from receiving bigger laughs. While Simon is a comedic master, with The Sunshine Boys, one has to acknowledge that this play hasn't held-up as well as his others. One potential reason why this may be is the dated references in the play to: Ed Sullivan, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker and vaudeville in general. While relevant to audiences when The Sunshine Boys first opened on Broadway in 1972, one has to wonder if time is diminishing the play's ability to connect with a younger generation of theatergoers.
Still, the Keegan Theatre's production of The Sunshine Boys is an enjoyable evening out and worth seeing especially for the performances of Adams and Lynch. Together, they enliven Simon's tired material, and truly give you a sense of what comedic gold was like in the era of vaudeville.
Run time is two hours and ten minutes with one intermission.
The Sunshine Boys is currently playing at Keegan Theatre thru October 19. For more information on The Sunshine Boys and to purchase tickets, please visit: http://keegantheatre.com/