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Sandy Actors Theatre offers classic Neil Simon

by: POST PHOTO: NEIL ZAWICKI - Joe Silver and Jim Bumgardner rehearse  a scene from Neil Simons The Sunshine Boys Friday at Sandy Actors Theater.Jim Bumgardner and Joe Silver are having fun. How could they not, playing the main roles in Neil Simon’s “The Sunshine Boys”?

The two veteran Sandy actors speak fondly not only of their roles but of the brand of humor they get to work with through the production.

“It’s definitely politically incorrect humor,” Bumgardner said.

“You get to stand on stage and say things you otherwise couldn’t say,” Silver added. “It’s the kind of sketch comedy that needs a rim shot from the drums all night.”

Both Silver and Bumgardner enjoy the genre, referencing early TV and its heavy vaudeville ties.

“Sid Caesar and Milton Berle, all those guys did vaudeville,” Silver said. “And Neil Simon wrote comedy for the Sid Caesar show and worked with a lot of other comic writers like Mel Brooks. He was a young writer in a room full of old writers. I think you really fall in love with that style of comic writing, and this play really reflects that.”

“The Sunshine Boys” is about two retired vaudeville performers, Willy Clark (Bumgardner) and Al Lewis (Silver), who grudgingly reunite in the early 1970s to do a TV special. The problem is, they can’t stand each other. Willy has not spoken to Al in 11 years. What unfolds is high-tempo banter between two old cranks, who deliver zingers and one-liners with the ferocity of a repeater rifle.

“You know what you are? You’re a 73-year-old putz,” Al says in one scene.

“At least the putz didn’t drive all the way here from New Jersey!” Willy replies.

Along the way, they might or might not discover that maybe they still enjoy each other’s company.

“It’s not all laughs,” Bumgardner said. “These guys are getting old and they can’t do all the things they used to do. It’s life, and life is not just comedy.”

Meanwhile, the cast and crew at Sandy Actors are working hard to get the play down. Silver said it’s coming together nicely.

“The chemistry is working well,” he said. “We’ll get there. It’s funny, and people laugh.”

Berta Limbaugh is directing the play. She said she’s always enjoyed Neil Simon plays.

“I love his work, and this is one of my favorites,” she said. “I was thrilled to death to get the cast members we did. I love it because it takes people away from the real world for a while.”

Another cast member, Kraig Williams, new to Sandy Actors Theatre, plays Willy’s nephew, Ben. He said he’s excited to be doing this play because both Silver and Bumgarnder have experience doing it before.

“Both of these guys have extensive stage experience,” he said. “Sometimes we crack each other up in rehearsal.”

“The Sunshine Boys” will run from May 31 to June 23 at the Sandy Actors Theatre. Shows are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $15 for general admission, $12 for seniors and $10 for children under 12.




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