I am a great admirer of Neil Simon, a comic genius who has done more to advance humor on the American stage and in film that any other playwright or screenwriter ever. Simon, the king of snappy repartee, at one time had three plays running on Broadway simultaneously. I have seen a lot of his work, and read most of his plays, and I always find myself laughing out loud at his clever dialogue and outlandish situations. Mr. Simon is a man with voices in his head, very funny voices.
Today my sister and I drove to central Phoenix where we saw the Arizona Theatre Company's performance of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys at the Herberger Theatre.
This play is not Mr. Simon's best effort, nor, in my opinion, even in the top half of his enormous body of work. It is the story of a pair of aging comedians who performed for over forty years as a team, went their own ways with hard feelings on the part of at least one of the duo, and then tried to reunite a decade or so after the split-up for an appearance on a television special. It has humor and conflict aplenty, but the stage production left me feeling as though I spent two hours listening to a clever, yet very tiresome, argument.
The actors were smart and accomplished in their roles with everyone in character, proficient with their lines, and hitting their marks. The production was technically flawless, and there was nothing not to like about this particular production of The Sunshine Boys, other than the play does not generate the gut laughs that come so easily in much of Mr. Siimon's other work. If the objective is to treat the audience to a couple of hours of two men arguing, give me Simon's The Odd Couple any time.
I liked this presentation of The Sunshine Boys as a Saturday afternoon diversion, but one serving was more than adequate.
All of that - and the Herberger was fifteen degrees too cold.