Lenny Wolpe (left) and James Sutorius in "The Sunshine Boys." Photo by Aaron Rumley
Its mugging and leering vaudeville scene aside, “The Sunshine Boys” is an old-fashioned, gently paced relationship comedy. The relationship in this vintage Neil Simon play is between a couple of crusty comic veterans whose 43-year partnership belied a foundational dislike for and intolerance of each other. At North Coast Repertory Theatre, the pair is portrayed with all due spit and vinegar by Lenny Wolpe (as Willie Clark) and James Sutorius (as Al Lewis). Watching the two spar – and it takes a long while in Act One before they get to do so – is the heart of the show, directed at North Coast Rep by Jeffrey B. Moss.
Wolpe does, however, wring some comic tension out of his multiple scenes with Bryan Banville, who plays Clark’s harried nephew with likable exasperation. That nephew, who happens to be an agent, is the one who had the bright idea to reunite the estranged Lewis and Clark for a network TV special. Bad idea, but good fun for theatergoers.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 11/6/19.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.