'The Sunshine Boys' keeps New Castle audience laughing
The two leads demonstrate an enthusiasm for their characters.
By SARAH POULTON
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Opening night of Neil Simon's 1972 play "The Sunshine Boys" at the New Castle Playhouse Annex was presented to a full house -- and for good reason. Through clever acting, directing and set design, the crowd was laughing until the curtain dropped.
As everyone in the public school system was being taught about Meriwether Lewis and William Clark venturing across the United States of America in the early 1800s, Simon's fictional characters, Al Lewis and Willie Clark, were on the map to make people laugh through the classic, but often forgotten, slapstick comedy known as vaudeville.
The play begins at the home of a lonely Willie Clark, played by Phillip Clark Jr. Clark did a fabulous job of portraying his character as the sarcastic, spunky, washed-up comedian Simon intended. Clark's nephew and only living relative, Ben Silverman, played by Brady Flamino, acts as his weekly caregiver and agent, and in a world of acting very different from how Clark remembered.
Flamino shared Clark's passion for his character, and although he was the "serious" one in the play, had his fair-share of one-liners that left the audience snickering.
Silverman has been coming up empty on jobs for his often forgetful but determined uncle, until a major network contacts him on getting Lewis and Clark back together for one last hurrah. After not speaking to each other for 12 years, a reluctant Clark hardly agrees to get back together with his old partner Lewis, played by Tom Ewen. While Ewen shared his fellow actor's incredible zeal for his character, Lewis shares Willie Clark's hesitance to reunite their act. After a strong push from both Silverman and Lewis' unnamed daughter, the duo gives it a shot.
Lewis and Clark can't make it past the first line without arguing over the script, which they had performed for more than 40 years. Even after 20 minutes of back and forth bashing, the laughs kept coming harder and harder. Dress rehearsal brings about a strong argument and as a result, the unthinkable happens: the cigar-smoking, corned-beef-eating Clark has a heart attack and is unable to perform with his old partner.
After the doctor orders him to temporary bed rest and permanent retirement, Lewis comes to Clark to try to cheer up an old friend. In the end, after not speaking for 12 years, the two discover they can live happily ever after in a retirement home for actors. To sum it up, as they said during Act 3, "For Lewis without Clark is like laughter without joy."