Hilarious is the best word to describe this show, just to start; but on top of the bright, clever writing and quirky plot, The Towne Players of Garner performed Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys crisply and extremely satisfyingly at the Garner Performing Arts Center.
Towne Players artistic director Beth Honeycutt reached back to 1972 and found an ever-popular chestnut to kick off 2017. She told us that she had waited a long time to find just the perfect cast for this show, and we watched the success of that wait.
The quick pickup of her actors moves the action smoothly, with lots of detailed business, such as fiddling with the door lock, which becomes a running gag, and setting up the doctor scene for rehearsal. There are several bits in which two or more characters speak over each other ,which are done so well as to be notable.
Towne Players technical director A. Scott Honeycutt, who co-designed the show’s set with his wife, Beth, has built a very presentable room-with-kitchen in a hotel for old actors. The set efficiently changes to a TV studio for the one time filming of a favorite old skit of the retired vaudeville and TV duo, (Al) Lewis and (Willie) Clark.
Michael Dunavan’s raspy voice fills the bill for grouchy Willie Clark; and his bodily movements, determined stalk, and angular gesticulations punch the sharpness of his character home. Dunavan’s comic delivery and timing are priceless.
Straight man Al Lewis is done with magnificent deadpan starkness by Jim O’Brien. Tall and stiff as a tree, he is the ideal foil for Dunavan in this performance. The chemistry between the two is startling, especially when they fight with each other and then turn right around and become comedic magnets.
Michael McGee does a great job of playing Ben Silverman, Willie Clark’s nephew and agent. McGee manages Ben’s frustration with his cantankerous uncle with love and balance, allowing the insults and explosions of anger to roll off him like rain.
Laura Griffin, who plays the Nurse in their doctor skit, has the burlesque sexy nurse down pat, rolling her rump around along with her eyes and accentuating her ample chest. Her poses are campy and funny.
Dara Walker plays the no-nonsense Registered Nurse who cares for Willie during his convalescence, keeping him pretty much in his place, with professional strictness. And Tim Stancil’s authoritative voice sounds like an important CBS director; and although we never see him, we cannot miss his presence.
Eddie, the TV set manager played by David Flood, knows his way around the set and what he wants, giving us the feeling that he usually gets it. And The Patient for the doctor skit is played by Stephen Carl, who brightens the comedy of the show.
Put a little sunshine into this cold, cloudy winter with a bright evening or afternoon of this delightful old Neil Simon classic.
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 20th Raleigh, NC Garner Cleveland Record preview by Aaron Moody: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/community/garner-cleveland-record/article127657249.html. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Jan. 29th Triangle Review review by Pamela Vesper and Kurt Benrud, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/01/neil-simons-the-sunshine-boys-shines-brightly-at-the-garner-performing-arts-center/.)
The Towne Players of Garner present THE SUNSHINE BOYS at 8 p.m. Feb. 3 and 2 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Garner Performing Arts Center (formerly Garner Historic Auditorium), 742 W. Garner Rd., Garner, North Carolina 27529.
TICKETS: $15 on Feb. 3rd and $12 on Feb 4th, except $12 per person for groups of 10 or more.
BOX OFFICE: Tickets will be sold at the door or may be purchased online at http://www.etix.com/.
INFORMATION: 919-779-6144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHOW: http://www.towneplayers.org/performances/current-season/, https://www.facebook.com/events/1783376251988034/, and http://www.garnernc.gov/departments/parks-recreation-and-cultural-resources/garner-performing-arts-center/events/the-sunshine-boys.
VENUE: http://www.garnernc.gov/departments/parks-recreation-and-cultural-resources/garner-performing-arts-center, https://www.facebook.com/GarnerPerformingArtsCenter/, https://www.facebook.com/GarnerHistoricAuditorium, and https://twitter.com/gpacgarner.
The Sunshine Boys (1972 Broadway comedy): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/2821/sunshine-boys-the (Samuel French Inc.), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-production/the-sunshine-boys-3160 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sunshine_Boys (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://www.thepublictheatre.org/assets/education/study-guides/2014-15/PublicTheatre-The-Sunshine-Boys-Study-Guide.pdf (The Public Theatre in Lewiston, ME).
Neil Simon (Bronx, NY-born playwright and screenwriter): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/neil-simon-7879 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/6337 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0800319/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Simon (Wikipedia).
Beth Honeycutt (Garner, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/beth.honeycutt2 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.