Neil Simon is arguably one of the greatest living comedic playwrights. His works are produced endlessly. It is actually very difficult to do Simon well because the writing is so good that an actor or director’s misstep is glaring. Soulpepper serves up a thoughtful evening with their production of Sunshine Boys.
Sunshine Boys is the story of an old-fashioned bro-mance between Willie and Al. It explores the complicated relationship between two elderly men who have worked together professionally for over forty years. Professionally they are vaudevillian superstars but personally they are so strained that they end up dissolving their partnership.
Willie’s nephew, who is also his agent, comes to his uncle with the first big acting opportunity he has had in ages, a televised reunion show with his one time partner turned foe Al. After much debate, Willie agrees to the reunion and the two men come together to rehearse. What follows is a series of classic Simon quips and clever banter as the two men battle it out in an endless game of one upmanship.
Sunshine Boys is more dramatic than comedic. There are still lots of laughs but Simon delves into the more serious issues of aging, trying to hang onto a dying career and struggling to maintain your worth as a person during the final chapter of your life.
Ted Dykstra’s direction is solid for the most part, though I did think some beats were too over the top within the context of this particular piece. He has assembled a talented cast of Soulpepper regulars. Eric Peterson and Kenneth Welsh are seasoned pros without question and these parts seem tailor made for them. I wish they had had a bit more fun with it though, there was room for more charm and pizazz to emerge. We are to believe, after all, that these two were world famous for forty years. I wanted to see a bit more of that magic. Overall I thought the performances were well crafted.
There were some strong turns in the supporting cast. Jordan Pettle is endearing as the nephew Ben and Quancetia Hamilton positively commands the stage as the nurse.
Patrick Clarks’ costumes were perfect ’70′s chic and I loved his Vaudevillian set in the second act.
Sunshine Boys will probably leave your more thoughtful then rolling out of your seats but definitely an enjoyable evening. The final moment was theatrical perfection that is sure to leave a lump in your throat.
For more information or to purchase tickets please visit: Soulpepper