Theater Reviews

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The George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, N.J.
Through Nov. 11

Neil Simon's 1972 play "The Sunshine Boys" is a perfect vehicle for comic actors of a certain age, and Jack Klugman and Paul Dooley more than rise to the occasion in this wonderful revival.

Playing Lewis and Clark, the two members of a long-bickering vaudeville team who are uneasily reuniting for a television special, these veteran actors are delivering performances that could double as master classes in comedic playing. Director David Saint doesn't attempt to fix what ain't broke. He simply allows his stars to bite into Simon's hilariously drawn characters and pitch-perfect dialogue with a clearly evident gusto.

Klugman, who has worked regularly in the theater despite losing one of his vocal cords, is reprising the role of Willie Clark that he played opposite Tony Randall in the 1997 Broadway revival, while Dooley is making his first East Coast stage appearance in decades.

The former's raspy voice is here sometimes problematic, since he's forced to deliver torrents of dialogue in a rapid pace. But any vocal deficiencies are more than compensated for by his perfect timing and physical expressiveness. Indeed, some of the funniest bits in the show stem not from the comic banter but rather such physical shtick as Willie's continued inability to open the locks on his door.

Klugman's hilariously aggressive performance is perfectly complemented by his co-star's canny underplaying. As Al Lewis, the quiet member of the team who expresses his passive aggression via spitting and poking, Dooley displays a placid demeanor that gets funnier every minute. Just the way he drinks a cup of tea with meticulous precision says more about his fastidious character than could pages of dialogue.

The supporting cast is equally fine. Michael Mastro is funnily neurotic as Willie's beleaguered agent/nephew, while Peggy Joyce Crosby and Ebony Jo-Ann (both reprising their roles from the decade-old Broadway production) score big laughs as the buxom sex object in the "Doctor" sketch and Willie's no-nonsense nurse, respectively.

THE SUNSHINE BOYS
Presented by the George Street Playhouse
Credits:
Playwright: Neil Simon
Director: David Saint
Set designer: R. Michael Miller
Lighting designer: Christopher J. Bailey
Costume designer: Esther Arroyo. Sound designer: Christopher J. Bailey
Cast:
Willie Clark: Jack Klugman
Al Lewis: Paul Dooley
Ben Silverman: Michael Mastro
Patient: Paul Stolarsky
Eddie: Joe O'Brien
Nurse: Peggy Joyce Crosby
Registered Nurse: Ebony Jo-Ann
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