Thoughts & Musings


This is a very funny play and Bob Colonna and F. William Oakes are very funny as Lewis and Clark.

by Larry O'Brien,
  • 9th August 20169/08/16
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Neil Simon’s THE SUNSHINE BOYS, which plays until the end of August at 2nd Story Theatre in Warren, tells the story of Al Lewis and Willie Clark, once a top-billed vaudeville team, who are no longer speaking (eleven years) and their bitter, bittersweet reunion for a television special. Like Simon’s The Odd Couple, THE SUNSHINE BOYS explores a love/hate relationship between two men–this time the long-standing vaudeville team. Simon once said: “My view is, ‘how sad and funny life is.’ I can’t think of a humorous situation that does not involve some pain. I used to ask, ‘What is a funny situation?’ Now I ask, “What is a sad situation and how can I tell it humorously?” A comic genius writes a play about two comic masters played by two veteran comic actors: How could it not be funny? Well, this is a very funny play and Bob Colonna and F. William Oakes are very funny as Lewis and Clark.

Several years ago, Colonna performed some hilarious vaudeville routines at his theater in Newport. He is intimate with the material and, through his own long career and stories that I am guessing he heard on his father’s knee (Bob’s father was the longtime Bob Hope second banana, Jerry Colonna), the performers who created them. SUNSHINE BOYS establishes very early that Neil Simon knows how to write a funny line (as if that were in question) and that Bob Colonna can deliver one (also not up for debate). Here he is, talking to his solicitous, caring nephew (Nick Thibeault), as he reads the obits in Variety: “Sol Burton died. His best friends didn’t like him. Ninety-eight years old and he went just like that.” In the second act when Lewis and Clark recreate one of their sketches for television, Colonna gets to show us everything he has learned about hamming it up and even gets to dust off a Groucho impersonation. Oakes keeps up with him, and it’s all fun and games til somebody has a heart attack.

THE SUNSHINE BOYS is performed in the round with a very simple set and 2nd Story’s usual professionalism. What could have been an awkward scene change in the second act was made very entertaining by having the actors move scenery while Ethel Merman’s recorded voice belts out “There’s no Business like Show Business.” The supporting cast is fine: the aforementioned Nick Thibeault as Willie’s nephew and Lauren Ustaszewski and Susan Bowen-Powers as a comedic caricature of a nurse in the sketch and a professional no-baloney nurse hired to take care of Willie, respectively. Head of Production Max Ponticelli even gets a line, briefly typecast as a stagehand.

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