Daily Record from Morristown, New Jersey on November 2, 2007 · 65
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Daily Record from Morristown, New Jersey · 65

Morristown, New Jersey
Issue Date:
Friday, November 2, 2007
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14 tgtp. DAILY RECORD, NOVEMBER 2, 2007 & Kiuqman, uooiev perrectiv cast m in Simon's The Sunshine Boys' "THE SUNSHINE BOYS" Tuesdays-Sundays Through Nov.ll George Street Playhouse 9 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick Tickets are $28 to $64 Call (732) 246-7717 www.gsponline.org BY WILLIAM WESTHOVEN DAILY RECORD Did you hear the one about Lewis and Clark discovering New Brunswick and marking it on their new map as Exit 9? The famous explorers also inspired the name of the fictional vaudeville team, Lewis and Clark, aka "The Sunshine Boys," who are packing them in at George Street Playhouse, New Jersey Turnpike Exit 9, in the Hub City of Middlesex County. Neil Simon's hilarious and sentimental comedy has its own timeless quality, but Artistic Director David Saint has figuratively tossed the clock out the window, teaming one ageless acting legend with another familiar and respected veteran in the title roles. Jack Klugman, who starred here last fall in "The Value of Names," continues to explore his roots as a stage actor, with results that are a privilege to witness. The spry 85-year-old, who once played opposite Ethel Merman in "Gypsy," makes it look almost too easy, as though comic timing was as natural as breathing. Perfect straight man Paul Dooley, one of the most recognizable actors most of us can't name, is the perfect straight man, calmly serving as the target of Klugman's comic rage. After 43 years in the business, Willie Clark (Klugman) and Al Clark (Dooley) are spending their golden years apart. They haven't even spoken in 11 years, after Al retired before Willie was ready. We catch up with Willie in 1973, miserably comfortable in his dingy, apartment-style Manhattan hotel room. Willie's nephew, Ben (Michael Mastro, another veteran New York actor) stocks the pantry during:', onevf his weekly visitvdurinr--' - -2 9 i .jmS" - . ;s - '"sr 7 V&V u "' Is - iW . I A h iv. .7:1 4 T. CHARLES ERICKSON GEORGE STREET PLAYHOUSE Jack Klugman, left, and Paul Dooley play estranged members of a former comedy team who reunite for a television special In Nell Simon's play 'The Sunshine Boys' at the George Street Playhouse In New Brunswick. which he begs his uncle to take better care of himself But Willie would rather stay inside, complain and read the obits of his former friends in Variety. "Look at that, 89 years old" he says, reading one. "He went like that, from nothing." Ben also is Willie's agent, although there's little work for an aging actor who can't remember his lines. But Ben's brought news of a big CBS TV special on the history of comedy, and they want Lewis and Clark. After much cajoling, and several pages of Simon zingers, Willie reluctantly agrees to the reunion. Ben brings Al up for a rehearsal and the real fun bgin.':';;V:,:'::':':,:-:':-::i AJ heard yonr Wood doesn't . circulate," Willie says. "My blood circulates fine," Al rebuts. "I'm not saying everywhere ..." Simon's silly lines are so deceptively simple that many actors turn them into throw-aways, knowing if one doesn't work, there will be plenty more. But Klugman and Dooley are so good at what they do that they don't even need the lines to get a laugh. One of the funniest scenes in the show is a wordless exercise in which the surly Sunshine boys attempt to set up their famous doctor skit. Each has a sketchy memory of the sketch, and they spend several side-splitting minutes moving chairs around a table until they get it just wrong. There's also a quietly funny ' scene where, they mirror man-, nerisms while sipping tea, never once looking at each other, like an old married couple who have blended into one entity Familiar cadence Klugman's voice remains compromised from surgery for throat cancer, scratchy at best and occasionally trailing off to a high-pitched whisper. But the rhythm of his voice, which speeds up when his character is agitated (which is quite often), is as familiar as Oscar Madison's messy bedroom. It helps that all the actors are miked and mixed to the same volume, so every line is clear all the way to the back row. Ebony Jo-Ann and Peggy Joyce Crosby enrich a supporting cast, respectively playing a ';j sassy home nurse and a shame-1' lessly buxom actress playing a nurse. A rotating stage brings the audience from Willie's flat, where most of the action takes place, to the soundstage for a rehearsal of the doctor sketch, which, of course, falls apart as the warring geezers revisit ancient conflicts. Add a relentless barrage of Jersey Jokes and you have the makings of a show that should back up traffic at Exit 9, which "The Sunshine Boys" appears to be doing. Saturday's second-week performance drew a full house, so make your reservations early for this limited-run treasure. William Westhoven can be reached at (973) 428-6650 or-' wwesthovgannett.com.

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