Thoughts & Musings

2nd Story Theatre’s ‘Sunshine Boys’ is perfect summer fare

The jokes come fast and furious, and many of them are pure gold.

by Channing Gray, Providence Journal
  • 8th August 20168/08/16
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I’m not a big fan of Neil Simon, but 2nd Story Theatre’s pairing of the masterful Bob Colonna and Bill Oakes as “The Sunshine Boys” is a winner.

There’s no one on the local stage who’s got better timing and a drier wit than Colonna. And Oakes, who has his moments, is only brought to greater heights working side by side with a real pro.

The show, one of Simon’s wittier, more concise comedies, is about a contentious vaudeville team coaxed out of mothballs to star in a TV special about the history of comedy. But it doesn’t happen without clashing over old wounds.

The dress rehearsal, which is a hoot, ends badly, with Oakes’ Al falling back on old habits of poking Colonna’s chest and spitting in his face.

But the two work together brilliantly, hitting all the cornball jokes and tired routines with perfection.

The thing is, for a couple of guys who can’t stand each other, there is an amazing bond between them that Colonna and Oakes manage to pull off.

Not long after rehearsing for the TV special, Colonna’s Willie is recovering from a heart attack. That’s when his nephew-talent agent Ben recommends he move into a home for aged actors in New Jersey. And guess who decides to join him?

The show is tight and to the point, clocking in at under two hours. And director Ed Shea has a lot to do with keeping in on track.

Whether you’re a fan of Simon or not, the jokes come fast and furious, and many of them are pure gold.

Basically the show revolves around Colonna and Oakes, but there are some solid back-up performances by Nicholas Thibeault as Ben, the devoted nephew who orchestrates the TV show, and from voluptuous Lauren Ustaszewski, who plays the nurse in the classic doctor/tax collector sketch that Al and Willie made famous.

Even if you’re not a big Neil Simon fan, “The Sunshine Boys” is a fine piece of writing, with its share of zingers and a lot of heart. It’s perfect summer fare.

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