Theater Review: ?The Sunshine Boys?

Thursday, November 17th, 2011 at 9:00 AM
Theater Review: ?The Sunshine Boys? by Rebecca Styn
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David Mitchell and Larry Lewis have found their niche. Not only is each a talented actor on his own, but when brought together, the two are the true dynamic duo. You may have seen them together in All An Act’s productions of “The Odd Couple” or  “Rounding Third,” but this time they grace the stage as “Lewis and Clark” in the classic Neil Simon play, “The Sunshine Boys.” Although most of Simon’s works are often riddled with one-liners, this piece is incessantly skewered with them, with each performer bringing a cantankerous look to what over 40 years of working together can do to a friendship.

A once renowned vaudevillian duo, Al Lewis (played by Mitchell) and Willie Clark (played by Lewis)—yes, you read that right—haven’t spoken in over a decade. Although they retired 11 years ago, Clark's nephew and agent, Ben Silverman (played by the very capable Chad Santos), has been asked by CBS to reunite the two one last time for a television special. 

Although each character portrayal is strong, (Santos is especially strong in his effortless delivery of exhaustion and frustration towards his uncle), the show is truly defined by the relationship between Mitchell and Lewis.

The play's opening scene finds Willie Clark asleep in a chair in his hotel room in flannel pajamas. A tea kettle whistles in the background for what seems a moment too long, but from the time he's jolted awake by the sound, he's on—delivering quips to the television set, on the phone to the hotel attendant, and at times, to an empty room. Within minutes, Ben Silverman, Clark's nephew shows up for what seems like his weekly berating session with his uncle, and tries to convince Clark to put aside his resentments, meet with Lewis, and discuss the possibility of working together once more. They both reluctantly agree.

Lewis shows up looking as counterpart to his, well, counterpart. He's dapper in a dark suit and red tie, and Clark answers the door half dressed for the occasion—blue flannel pajamas and a blazer to class it up. They couldn’t be more consistently opposite.

Retirement has sent each man into a different life. Lewis lives happily in the countryside of New Jersey with his daughter, and Clark, who is a widower like Lewis, remains in the middle of Manhattan where he still lives for show business and reads Variety every Wednesday (when his nephew brings it to him).

Even if you've never seen the play, you immediately realize without the two title characters being in sync, there would be no foundation to this production. The differences between these two are written into the script, but it takes two good actors to flesh these characters out. And luckily for us, Mitchell and Lewis fit the mold. Even the set and lighting are characters in themselves, standing out enough where in one particular scene, you actually feel like you’re actually in a run down hotel in the 1980s. 

Overall, the piece is engaging, touching, and outright funny. All An Act is a hidden treasure of culture, and this work is a must see for any theatergoer.

The Sunshine Boys runs Friday through Sunday, now through December 4 (with no show on Black Friday) at All An Act Theatre Productions, 652 W.17th Street. $1 of all proceeds benefit Community Shelter Services. For more information on specific dates and times, go to:

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