University Theatre at N.C. State’s smartly staged production of The Sunshine Boys by Neil Simon is the third — and best — presentation of TheatreFest 2012: A Knockout Season of Dueling Duos. David Ring and John Bonigive stellar performances as former Vaudeville partners Willie Clark and Al Lewis, known in their prime as The Sunshine Boys.
Ring captures every tic and twitch of the irascible Willie Clark. If grudge carrying were an Olympic event, Willie would be a gold medalist.
John Boni demonstrates Job-like patience as Al Lewis, who for has decades put up with Willie’s prickly personality and frequent tirades against real and imagined slights — all for the sake of their Vaudeville act. But when the former partners are reunited for a television reunion show, Al Lewis finds that Willie Clark has not mellowed at all.
Christian O’Neil and Maddison Harris are amusing as the Patient and a buxom Nurse with a wiggle in her walk in the classic Sunshine Boys’ Vaudeville skit that they reprise for the TV reunion show. Victoria Blake and Barbette Hunter add sharply etched comic cameos as the increasingly exasperated Stage Manager for the TV show and Willie’s long-suffering private-duty Registered Nurse. But it is Philip T. Caudle who makes the biggest splash as Willie’s nervous nephew and agent Ben.
Director Allison Bergman sets a brisk pace for her principals and the strong supporting cast for The Sunshine Boys, and scenic designer Jayme Mellema has created quite a realistic set for Willie’s shabby apartment and, briefly, a portion of the television studio where the reunion special is being videotaped.
Technical director David Jensen, lighting and sound designer Joshua A. Reaves, costume designers Laura Parker and John McIlwee, and properties manager Victoria Blake also make praiseworthy contributions to this crowd-pleasing production, which is a real treat for TheatreFest patrons.
SECOND OPINION: June 20th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3.5 out of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-sunshine-boys-a-surprisingly-poignant-neil-simon-revival/Content?oid=3089225. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of Triangle Theater Review’s June 12th preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/06/in-the-sunshine-boys-david-ring-and-john-boni-will-play-feuding-former-vaudeville-partners/.)
University Theatre at N.C. State presents THE SUNSHINE BOYS at 7:30 p.m. June 20-23 and 2 p.m. June 24 in the Titmus Theatre in Frank Thompson Hall, 2241 E. Dunn Ave., Raleigh North Carolina 27607, on the NCSU campus.
TICKETS: $15 ($5 NCSU students and $13 other students and seniors).
BOX OFFICE: 919-515-1100 or http://purchase.tickets.com/.
The Play (background): http://www.sunshineboystheplay.com/ (official U.K. West End website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sunshine_Boys (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Simon (Wikipedia).
The Film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sunshine_Boys_(film) (Wikipedia) and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073766/ (Internet Movie Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.