review - July 2021
It seems fitting that this review appears as a hurricane approaches. 'The Sunshine Boys' was really more overcast with infrequent sunny moments.
There was a 1975 movie of this play, starring Walter Matthau and George Burns. I have seen clips of the show, but not the movie in it's entirety, and so entered the theater with an open mind.
The first act pacing was painful, with a lot of pauses and actors trying to remember lines. Willie Clark (Brian Williams) is living in a hotel, and has for years. As half of the famed comedy team of Lewis & Clark, he's found forced retirement difficult. Williams maintained a Catskills-esque Jewish accent well, but was unable to generate any sort of empathy for his character; I didn't care for the character's attitude or actions at all. His partner, Al Lewis (Regan Krause) decided to retire without warning Willie, and this is cause of friction with these characters. Krause sported an German/Austrian, or East European accent which felt uncomfortable - the flat delivery made the character somewhat robotic, and again unsympathetic. Lewis is supposed to be deadpan, not dying.
The third character of Act One is Ben Silverman (Hunter Rice), an agent and Willie's nephew. While taking care of Willie and doing his best to get Willie stage work, he's become frustrated with Willie's attitude towards life. Unfortunately, Rice's efforts here have two gears, and nothing between; conversational, and frustrated angry outburst. There's no nuance or shading whatsoever.
The second act adds the rest of the cast, most of whom don't have a chance to show character. The two nurses, however, generate the biggest laughs of the show.
The Registered Nurse (Kathleen Encrapera) had the biggest laugh in the show I attended, as she takes no guff from Willie. Encrapera held her own on stage, and was a joy to observe.
The second nurse - the 'TV nurse' for the TV show that brings Lewis & Clark together again - is played by Angel Allen, who was last seen starring in The Property known as Garfield at Tavares Community Theater. Here her entire character is meant to be a curvy sexpot drawn from Benny Hill and vintage Burlesque and Allen embodies her character with...well, everything she has, so to speak.
The overall effect, I'm sorry to say, was a show with mostly unlikeable characters, and caricatures. As none of the actors were new to the stage, and some with years of experience, the issue would seem to be with the work (or lack thereof) of Director Dennis Gleason. With Gleason's years of directing, the red flags on stage should quickly have been seen and addressed.
Harold Miner's set was perfectly detailed without unneeded embellishment. Sound and lights were well done, and the production did not suffer at all technically.
Quite honestly - if this were a new theater group, with a director of few titles, and actors new to Community theater, this review could be more indulgent. But Tavares Community Theater ISN'T new; Gleason (per has bio) has directed nine other Neil Simon plays, including 'The Sunshine Boys'; and multiple of the actors have 10+, even 20+ years of experience. My expectations are borne of the experience brought to the stage, and lost potential for this show.
The production runs one more weekend, at the Melon Patch Playhouse in Leesburg.
Grade: C- (Family friendly, but children to the age of 25 might get restless)