You can always depend on the John W. Engeman Theater of Nortport, Long Island, to provide top-notch productions. Their latest, Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys", is no different, especially under the superb direction of BT McNicholl.
In a story that is just as touching as it is funny, "The Sunshine Boys" tell the story of Lewis and Clark, a vaudeville team that was famous for decades. Now, years after their split, Willie's nephew, Ben Silverman (Frank Vlastnick) is trying to reunite them for a T.V. special. At one point, Ben asks Willie how they were a team if they couldn't stand each other. Willie humbly and wholeheartedly answers: "Al Lewis is the best."
Leading this hilarious play are Lewis J. Stadlen and Chip Zien. Having originated the role of Ben Silverman in the original 1973 production on Broadway, Mr. Stadlen portrayed Willie Clark this time around. His shtick and crotchety disposition got overwhelming roars of laughter from the audience. Mr. Zien was also fantastic as Al Lewis with his George Burns-like coke-bottle glasses reminiscent of the movie adaptation. Mr. Zien and Mr. Stadlen had great chemistry on stage it was as if they were an actual vaudeville team.
Set in the 1970s, Willie lived in a typical New York City apartment. The worn couch, aging chair, and a dinosaur of a TV paralleled Willie's stubborn behavior and added to many hilarious moments in the show. Upstage had a little kitchen nook and a large dining area with pictures and art from "the old days" on the walls.
"The Sunshine Boys", playing through March 25, shows that you can be at odds with someone, think highly of them, and still work with them. This story will have you leaving the theater thinking about your old friendships and what could have come from them. And the cast will leave you laughing endlessly.
"The Sunshine Boys" by Neil Simon is presented by the John W. Engeman Theater of Northport playing through March 25th. Producing Artistic Direction by Richard T. Dolce; Executive Producer Kevin O'Neill; Director, BT McNicholl; Scenic Design by Jonathan Collins; Costume Design by Tricia Barsamian; Lighting Design by Martin Vreeland; Sound Design by Craig Kaufman; Hair and Make-up by Mark Adam Rampmeyer; Casting by Stephen DeAngelis; Production Manager, Michael J. Leslie; Production Stage Manager, Robert Thurber. For tickets and information, call 631-261-2900 or visit johnwengemantheater.com.
Photos by AnnMarie Snyder