Theatre Review: “The Sunshine Boys”
Meet “The Sunshine Boys,” a famous ex-Vaudeville comedic duo also known as, Lewis and Clark. In this play by Neil Simon, currently running at Swift Creek Mill and directed by Tom Width, “The Sunshine Boys” must try to put their differences aside to get back on the stage for a CBS special, after eleven years of not speaking due to an acrimonious parting of ways.
John Hagadorn plays Willie Clark, a grumpy shut-in who has become more and more eccentric as the years go by. Dan Stackhouse plays Willie’s nephew, Ben, who drops by once a week to bring Willie groceries and that week’s Variety magazine, mainly so Willie can check out the obituaries. Ben also doubles as Willie’s agent and is responsible for lining up the show that will reunite the very hesitant duo.
Hagadorn was perfect as Willie and absolutely brilliant at the physical comedy that the part requires, whether it’s chasing Al with a kitchen knife, wearing a suit jacket over his pajamas, or banging around angrily in the kitchen out of sight. I laughed out loud every time he yells “Wait a minute! Wait a minute!” as he struggles to unlock the four locks on his door every time he has a visitor. King is a bit more subdued as Al Lewis and is a perfect counter to Hagadorn/Willie’s antics. King and Hagadorn play off each other so well it was easy to believe in their character’s forty-three year long relationship.
When it comes time for the duo to perform together again of course there are disagreements about how things should go, with neither partner willing to compromise. While Willie wants to update the show, Al takes more of a, “hey if it ain’t broke” approach. But one thing the two can agree on is having a hot blonde in the skit, played by Georgia Rogers Farmer. The Vaudeville skit for the CBS special is as cheesy as ever with goofy, well-placed sound effects, designed by Paul Deiss; especially the “ba doom, ba doom, ba doom” effect played every time Rogers Farmer’s character walks around the stage appearing to channel a vintage pin-up in her actions and facial expressions.
The action takes place mainly in Willie’s NYC’s hotel room, which has become his home and over the years has reduced in size from a five room suite to a one room suite. The set, also designed by Width, has thoughtful details like smudges on the wall to make it look grimy and worn down. The CBS set in the beginning of act two is also very impressive with beautiful, over-the-top, “Vaudeville” art by Joe Thibodeau as the back drop.
Swift Creek’s “Sunshine Boys” is absolutely hilarious and leaves its audience with the message that true friendship never dies.
www.swiftcreekmill.com for information
“The Sunshine Boys” is playing at Swift Creek Mill through March 2nd.
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
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