Players Theatre stages 'Sunshine Boys' in Sarasota

June 13, 2013 

Back in the early 1970s, when Neil Simon was everywhere -- on Broadway, in movies, on TV -- most people did not consider "The Sunshine Boys" one of his best works. It was solid, but not one of his classics.

But "The Sunshine Boys" stands up to the changes in taste and culture better than some Simon plays that are so rooted in the '60s and '70s.

Its original run, starting in 1972, was a huge hit, directed by Adam Arkin and starring Jack Albertson and Sam Levene. It been revived and adapted many times since, including a Broadway version in the late '90s Jack Klugman and Tony Randall -- TV's "Odd Couple" -- a lovely 1975 film with George Burns and Walter Matthau, and a memorable TV adaptation in 1996 with Woody Allen and Peter Falk.

Its warmth and enduring humor have also made it a perpetually popular choice for regional theaters around the country. The latest is Sarasota's Players Theatre, which is staging "The Sunshine Boys" for two weeks beginning June 15.

The story revolves around a legendary comedy team called Lewis and Clark. They had broken up years earlier, but as the play begins they've been reunited for a television special about the history of comedy.

The problem is that Lewis and Clark really didn't like each other off stage, and their resentments have been festering in the years since their split.

As usual with Neil Simon plays from this period of his career, it's light but very funny, and full of heart.

Details: June 13-30, The Players Theatre, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Show times: 7:30 p.m. June 13-15, 27 and 29. 2 p.m. June 16 and 30. Tickets: $18. Information: 941-365-2494, www.theplayers.org.

-- Marty Clear

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