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 Boni give stellar performances as former Vaudeville partners Willie Clark and Al Lewis, known in their prime as The Sunshine Boys.
The third and final production of TheatreFest 2012: A Knockout Season of Dueling Duos will be “The Sunshine Boys,” Broadway King of Comedy Neil Simon’s 1972 backstage comedy about feuding former Vaudeville partners, which University Theatre at N.C. State will perform on June 14-15, 17, and 20-24 in the Titmus Theatre in Frank Thompson Hall on the NCSU campus.
Raised by a flamboyant single mother, who supported herself and her daughter by performing all-female productions of Shakespeare’s plays in rural France, Lettice Douffet comes by her grandiose Drama Queen gestures honestly; and JoAnne Dickinson makes her a real pip. But it is Lynda Clark who steals the show as the straitlaced Lotte Schoen loosens up, and confesses to a misspent youth that matches — and, in some cases, exceeds — the checkered past of Lettice Douffet.
Listening to the verbal thrusts and parries of Sandi Sullivan and Lynda Clark as Jane and Julia — especially as their consumption of spirits loosens their tongues and skews their judgment — is reminiscent of a vintage episode of the old “I Love Lucy” television show in which Lucille Ball as Lucy Ricardo and Vivian Vance as Ethel Mertz accidentally imbibe an intoxicant and make fools of themselves. Sullivan and Clark likewise have TheatreFest patrons rolling in the aisles.
“Never one to copy what I have done before,” says “Lettice and Lovage” director John C. McIlwee, “I have gone out of my way to find new characteristics in Lettice Douffet and Lotte Schoen that I can play upon with such talented and individualistic actresses as JoAnne Dickinson and Lynda Clark. They are both unique performers and bring new notes to this marvelous script.”