Saturday, August 11, 2012


The current Soulpepper production of the The Sunshine Boys is a truly impeccable exercise in comic timing. Eric Peterson, at the helm of this classic Neil Simon comedy, steers his impressive cast through the fluid terrain of an old vaudeville team trying to survive the passage of time with absolute charm, perfection, and open hearted distemper. Ted Dykstra's direction bears the mark of someone acutely aware of the need for physical and verbal action in a "suit the action to the word, the word to the action" Shakespearean sense. There are sheer blissful moments of absolute brilliance when Peterson takes a single line, a single movement, and delivers them, embodies them, with such nuance and impeccable pacing that the experience becomes almost meta-theatrical - in the most insular and charming way possible. But enough about me and my theatrical idiosyncrasies.

Kenneth Walsh and Eric Peterson both brilliant as The Sunshine Boys

Jordan Pettle plays the charming frustrated nephew-cum-straight man with a wide range of sympathetic and assertive physical and vocal gestures, creating a layered character who frequently makes his way out of his uncle's torrential bitterness long enough to turn masterful, character based brilliance into the deeply textured dramaturgical flair that has allowed Simon's work to endure.

The timelessness of the script possesses such a rich nostalgia for a past, a future, and a present whereby characters can function within all three realms through the use of sharp, incident based dialogue. Their lives are revealed and revered through the playwrights incredible knack for, and knowledge of, illuminating and relentless comic structure, in both word and deed.

Kenneth Walsh as Al takes on a bit of a George Burns impersonation and comes up with a truly original and entertaining take on the old master's position within the annals of comic history (aka the history of comedy for any grammarians in my bloggy-eyed audience). Burns played the role in the film version and gave it his signature dry wit and raw, measured timing. Walsh does all this and more as he dares to set himself up for unbeatable comparison and wins on all counts.

Quancetia Hamilton arrives late in the play as the Nurse and gives a secondary comic role incredible strength and a comic power that matches her hilarious cohorts at every turn.

Quancetia Hamilton as the Nurse

Running at Soulpepper through September, this is classic comic fare from a playwright whose work  graced Broadway stages from 1961 (Come Blow Your Horn) until the early 2000's. Simon won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1991 for Lost in Yonkers, and was honored in 1977 by the Nederlander Organization when the Alvin Theatre, built in 1927, was re-named The Neil Simon theatre. Soulpepper does Simon's impressive legacy justice with their commitment to his work, seen in their successful productions of The Odd Couple and now The Sunshine Boys.

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