Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Sunshine Boys"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2002 by Tony Annicone

"The Sunshine Boys"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The year is 1972. Two cranky vaudevillians, known as the Sunshine Boys, are asked to reunite for a CBS comedy special. Willie Clark and Al Lewis were a comedy team for 43 years and haven't seen each other in 11 years. The comic antics explode for the audiences at the Granite Theater. Neil Simon's, "The Sunshine Boys" is an expertly written take on how funny vaudeville was. Director David Jepson casts the cranky old men and their supporting characters perfectly, giving his audience a multitude of laughter in this excellent show.

Not only does, Jepson cast the show well, he gets every bit of humor from the one liners, the timing and the shtick, especially in the two men setting the chairs and table for their rehearsal scene. (They keep moving things back to where the other one just put it and then they do it in reverse.) He designed the tacky set for Willie's hotel apartment in NYC and uses black curtains for the TV set. Jepson also does the voice of the weary, TV director who tries to get the old men to do their routine without arguing and isn't successful in keeping them from their bickering ways. A well crafted show with an expert hand guiding it makes this a must see show.

Arthur Pignataro as Willie Clark delivers a tour de force performance in this role. He is on stage the entire time except for one minute at the start of Act ll. Arthur is a master of Neil Simon's oneliners and his facial expressions, his Jewish accent and his shuffling walk help complete this amazing feat. The character loves corned beef sandwiches and cigars which help to lead him into a funny heart attack segment. The best scene in the show is the vaudeville segment about a doctor, his nurse and the taxman, where the jokes and laughs come fast and furious.

Arthur's partner in this show is Ted Gavriluk as Al Lewis. Both men play the elder gentlemen beautifully. Ted uses a Jewish accent in the show and does a wonderful job with the comic moments in the show. He usually plays the villian in shows so this is a change of pace for him and he handles it with ease. Ted also shines in the spitting in Willie's face and poking him with the finger scene which leads to Willie's heart attack on stage. (You think it is a dramatic moment but Simon leads you back into laughter immediately.)

Willie's long suffering and kindly, nephew, Ben is played fantastically by James Pollitt in his first major role. He handles his scenes with the veteran actors like an old pro. His line delivery is right on the money and his chest pain scenes are hilarious. James makes the transition from bit player to leading man wonderfully and has a great future ahead of him in theatre. Rounding out the cast are three other members who add to the fun of the evening. Beth Jepson plays the nurse who cares for Willie after his heart attack. She eats his candy and bosses him around while caring for him. Beth makes this strong willed nurse into a very funny character who is the only one to control the wild, Willie in this show. She also stage manages the show and keeps things moving especially the quick scene change from the TV studio back to Willie's hotel room. Bruce Celico plays Eddie, the TV show stage manager. He brings the needed frenzied behavior and exasperation the role needs. The nurse in the TV sketch is played by high school junior, Ashley P acheco. She plays the dumb blonde with the big boobs and nice backside in the vaudeville segment who is leered at by Wille and Al.

The opening night at the Granite isn't complete without the cleverness of gourmet, caterer, Lorain Simister and her assistant, Kim Jones. The setting of the show is NYC so Lorain decided to use deli food for the buffet. She made little corned beef sandwiches, stone ground wheat bread, crackers and various dips, assorted Swiss cheeses, fruits, vegetables and an absolutely delicious, chicken vegetable soup to warm you up on the chilly, April night. Kim made her scrumptious candies in the shape of matches. (A graham cracker dipped in chocolate with coconut on the tip to look like a flame.) To sample her wares call Lorain at Lor Concierge at 401-596-9685. So for an excellent Neil Simon comedy with actors to match, go see the hysterical antics of "The Sunshine Boys", you won't be disappointed.

"The Sunshine Boys" (till 28 April)
THE GRANITE THEATRE
1 Granite Street, WESTERLY, RHODE ISLAND
1 (401) 596-2341

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