Starring Eric Peterson, Kenneth Welsh. Written by Neil Simon. Directed by Ted Dykstra. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, to Sept. 22.
Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys is about two aging entertainers who have one last shot at the spotlight, long past their career’s expiry date. Soulpepper’s current revival of the play, on the other hand, showcases two Canadian performers who’ve definitely still got it, and one playwright who barely ever had it at all. The venerable Eric Peterson and Kenneth Welsh play Willie Clark and Al Lewis, who, for 43 years, were partners in comedy but rivals in everything else. Twelve silent years after their split, a one-time payoff sparks a reunion with predictably disastrous results. Simon’s script, which uses elements of Lewis and Clark’s vaudeville act, packs in prop gags, repetitious jokes, and punchline zingers that feel as ancient and out of touch as the title characters are supposed to be. Luckily, Welsh and Peterson use their innate charm to give a painfully hokey play a little personality—and, dare I say it, depth. But in the end, anyone considering a remount of The Sunshine Boys should take a lesson from Lewis and Clark, and know when to call it quits.