AMANA - Playwright Neil Simon loves his odd couples, and audiences will love David Q. Combs and Richard W. Cox as "The Sunshine Boys."
Simon's 1972 homage to vaudeville generates plenty of rimshot hits, which led to plenty of laughs during Thursday's opening matinee (6/5/14) at the Old Creamery Theatre. Performances continue through June 29.
The action is set in 1972 - the year the play opened on Broadway - but the Boys clearly are stuck in the past and fading in the present. Combs brings varying shades of crotchety to Willie Clark, the veteran funnyman who leers at comely nurses in short dresses and snaps at everyone else, especially his former partner, Al Lewis. With his cherubic face, Cox brings a sweet vulnerability to straight-man Lewis.
The two men spent 43 years as Lewis and Clark, aka "The Sunshine Boys," one of the nation's top comedy acts emerging from the early 20th century vaudeville style. The laughs ended in the early '60s when Lewis was ready to retire and Clark was not. With his star, his style and his memory quickly fading, Clark's bitterness grew.
Lewis moved in with his daughter's family in New Jersey, Clark stayed in an efficiency "suite" in a once blooming New York hotel, gone to seed. The two haven't worked together in 11 years and haven't spoken in 12.
Enter Clark's nephew Ben (Sean McCall), a talent agent who is tasked with reuniting the pair for a CBS special on comedy through the ages. Naturally, with all the animosity flying through the air, that proves a most unsavory task.
But, it gives Cox and Combs ample opportunity to show off their comedy chops as they shuffle their way through all sorts of shticky situations. The two polar opposites who have grown poles apart still move in snych as they sit in unison, sip tea in unison and gingerly rise to their feet in unison. Their reunion and rehearsals are recipes for disaster, but the cat-and-mouse chases are delightful to behold.
Other characters flow in and out of the action, with two nurses proving art doesn't always imitate life. Young Jillian Kuhl plays the blonde bombshell from the Boys' classic doctor's office sketch while middle-aged Nikki Savitt is no Florence Nightingale as Clark's real-life nurse. Her droll one-liners put him in his place most delightfully.
Temperatures rise, blood pressures boil and plenty of hatchets get buried in Lewis and Clark's heads in this old-fashioned comedy that adds plenty of gristle to its bite.
IF YOU GO
What: Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys"
Where: Old Creamery Theatre, 39 38th Ave., Amana
When: Through June 29; 2 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday
Tickets: $28 adults, $18.50 students, Old Creamery Box Office, (319) 622-6262 or Oldcreamery.com
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