The Sunshine Boys

by Neil Simon
directed by Lorri Layle Oliver

In Simon’s The Sunshine Boys, aging Al Lewis and Willie Clark, a one-time vaudevillian team known as “Lewis and Clark”, not only grew to hate each other over the course of forty-odd years together, they never spoke to each other off-stage throughout the final year of their act. The stubborn Clark, who was not ready for retirement, resented the wiser Lewis for breaking up the act when he opted to leave show business.

Television giant CBS  has invited the team to reunite for a special on the history of comedy, with the pair representing the vaudeville era at its best. Clark is convinced by his nephew Ben to revive one of the old routines one last time. Much of the humor in the play is derived from efforts to get the two cantankerous actors into the same room for a rehearsal, their differences of opinion once they reunite, and their shenanigans on the actual broadcast.  The play displays a great deal of nostalgia and affection for vaudeville.

The Sunshine Boys (Neil Simon’s ninth play not including musicals) premiered on Broadway in December 1972 and ran until April 1974.  It starred Jack Albertson as Willie Clark and Sam Levene as Al Lewis, and was directed by Alan Arkin. Since 1974, the play has had a Broadway revival, a movie version, a Hallmark TV version, and has been performed thousands of times around the world. The play has also offered meaty roles for numerous “older” comic actors. Some who have portrayed Al Lewis include Lou Jacobi, Tony Randall, Judd Hirsch, George Burns (who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, 1976), and Woody Allen. Some who have played Willie Clark include Jack Gilford, Jack Klugman, Danny DeVito, Walter Matthau, and Peter Falk.

This 2015 presentation at The Adobe Theater is directed by Lorri Layle Oliver and features James Cady as Willie Clark and Philip J. Shortell as Al Lewis, with Jonathan Dunski as Willie’s nephew and agent, Ben. Other members of the cast are Patrick J. Brennan, Paul Ingles, Haley Morrell, Sarah Seaton and Sandra Williams.

Albuquerque theatergoers will have seen in recent years Lorri Oliver and Philip J. Shortell on stage together in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (directed by James Cady) at The Vortex Theatre,  and in All My Sons (directed by James Cady) at The Adobe Theater. Most recently at The Adobe they performed the very successful Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins (again directed by James Cady). Now Lorri directs Jim and Phil!!

The Sunshine Boys  opened at The Adobe Theater on Friday, June 19th and runs 4 weekends through Sunday, July 12th.

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