Chip Zien and Lewis J. Stadlen are the Sunshine Boys. They star in the John W. Engeman theater production of the play, a never-ending laugh fest, ripe with relatable humor and slapstick comedy that is sorely missing from plays today.
This endearing story, coupled with a clever cast of skilled actors, makes for an incredibly fulfilling and fun experience in theater. Lewis (Zien) and Clark (Stadlen) are two faded vaudeville legends.
But what they lack in youth, they make up for in zingers and nagging bites. We meet them in their 70s as they reunite to perform their old act one last time, despite the fact that they hate each other.
The basis for most of the comedy comes from watching these two old men attempt to get past the issues that have kept them apart for years. Set in their ways to s maddeningly frustrating degree, Lewis and Clark are a hoot when they go at it with one another.
Zien pulls off Lewis’ simplistic thoughtlessness with great ease, as he exhibits bad habits while trying to make nice with his old compadre. But the real ray of light is Stadlen, who created the role of Ben Silverman, Clark’s nephew, in the original 1973 production of The Sunshine Boys.
Full of snark, Stadlen brings the whiny, pigheaded character to life thanks to his talent for physical comedy. He’s the embodiment of the cranky old man. With every drop of an “R” to emulate his New York accent, Stadlen becomes the grandfatherly everyman.
Who doesn’t know that guy who spouts barbs like, “I hate New Jersey. I’m sorry they ever finished the George Washington Bridge.” Amidst Stadlen’s many eccentricities he still makes Clark likable, even when he’s at his worst.
Director BT McNicholl uses the stage well; his cast makes each environment feel lived in and frequently visited. He takes a dialogue heavy play and appeals to the visual sense; no one is ever simply speaking–they’re always moving around and adjusting. There’s no big shocker at the end of this story, but it’s played farcically and with great joviality.
The John W. Engeman always does a phenomenal job of bringing Broadway to Long Island, and with such a fantastic production on their hands, it should work on taking this show to Broadway. It’s impossible to leave this Sunshine without a smile.
To purchase tickets for The Sunshine Boys, visit www.johnwengemantheater.com or www.ovationtix.com.