Nothing but sunshine

TelevisionEntertainmentNeil SimonHealthDaniel RoebuckAl Lewis

The St. Francis Stage Company's current staging of "The Sunshine Boys" offers quite a few bright spots for local theatergoers despite some uneven technical aspects.

Billed as an annual fundraiser for St. Francis Xavier School and parish, this production of Neil Simon's comedy concerning a pair of former vaudevillian partners features some finely honed leading performances and a first-rate set credited to scenic designer Brad Recker.

The bumps in the road occur during what feel like interminable set changes between the scenes that make up each of the show's two acts.

Performers and crew alike wander the stage seemingly in search of something to do rather than having a well-rehearsed plan for minimizing the audience's wait time.

More than just extending the show's running time, these lengthy blackouts, coupled with at least one horribly static-plagued body microphone, sabotage the show's momentum, which hinges on Simon's fast-paced repartee.

Fortunately, director Daniel Roebuck has done a yeoman's job of keeping things moving at a relatively spry pace, in spite of these nominal glitches.

Additionally, Roebuck leads his cast with a wonderfully developed turn as the curmudgeonly Willie Clark, one half of the fictitious comedy team of Lewis and Clark whose break up occurred some 11 years before the play's 1972 setting.

Jim Roope is equally outstanding as Willie's ex-partner, the acerbically witty Al Lewis.

Together, their chemistry fairly crackles as Simon's dialogue trips off their tongues. One minute we witness their camaraderie and the next, their ability to antagonize each other to the point of distraction.

Chris Kenney appears as Willie's nephew, Ben, whose weekly visits and efforts as Willie's talent agent have led to a reunion of the team for an upcoming network comedy retrospective.

To his credit, Kenney gamely dealt with the aforementioned microphone problem.

Also worthy of note was Milda Dacys in the role of a registered nurse assigned to home duty after Willie suffers a heart attack at the television studio during a pre-taping rehearsal.

Dacys and Roebuck are hysterical as they attack and parry with all the sarcasm and derision that makes Neil Simon's plays so timeless.

And speaking of that 1972 time period, Roebuck, along with cinematographer Cory Geryak and editor David Hansen-Sturm, kicks off the evening with an originally scripted, taped pre-show projected onto a screen featuring a giant television complete with a rabbit-ear antenna.

As a variety show emcee named Timmy O'Day, actor Tim Goodwin reminds the modern-day attendees of the cultural and political highlights of nearly 40 years ago.

It's an ingenious way to set the mood for this production that is available to audience members for only one more weekend as it closes on Jan. 15.

Dink O'Neal, an actor and member of the American Theatre Critics Assn., resides in Burbank.

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Infobox

What: "The Sunshine Boys" by Neil Simon

When: Discount senior matinee is at 2 p.m. Friday ($10) and final performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: St. Francis Xavier Church Holy Cross Hall, 3801 Scott Road, Burbank

Tickets: $14

Contact: (818) 504-4400 or visit http://www.sfxrccburbank.org

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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