Marquette Wire

Simon’s show shines

Libby Fry

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The play tells the story of Willie Clark (Jim Baker), a crotchety old man who lives in a cheap hotel suite in New York City. Although he was once a star in the lights of vaudeville — and he still converses in snappy one-liners — his star has faded and now he can’t even get work doing television commercials.

Clark is primarily cared for by his nephew, Ben (Michael Herold), who is also his agent and who visits the grumpy old man every Wednesday. One day, Ben presents his uncle with a proposition. It seems CBS is doing a television special on the roots of comedy, and the producers want Clark to reunite with his former partner Al Lewis (Richard Halverson) to perform their famous doctor sketch from their days of vaudeville.

Clark, however, will have none of it — he’s still bitter that Lewis decided to retire before he was ready and broke up their act. Clark hasn’t spoken to his former partner for 12 years, and he’s not ready to do so yet.

Baker is nothing short of fantastic as the crotchety recluse. Although his stubborn nature is frustrating to watch, and audience members will surely sympathize with his nephew for putting up with such behavior, he also evokes viewers’ sympathy as a man who has been made unhappy by his own obstinate nature.

Halverson is also fun to watch. His poker face throughout and seemingly oblivious nature fit the role of the straight man perfectly.

One of the highlights of the show is Norman Moses, who plays a vaudevillian that graces the stage between scenes. When the curtains close and the sets are changed, he moseys onto the stage to perform quick sketches that keep the audience entertained. It’s a creative way to distract viewers from the noise of the scene changes.

Although “The Sunshine Boys” is not a play that will leave viewers feeling inspired or exiting the theater with a great deal on their minds, it’s an entertaining show that provides much humor and laughter. With this flawless production, the Rep continues to show why it’s one of the best theaters to spend an evening in.

“The Sunshine Boys” will run through Nov. 9 at The Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, 108 E. Wells St. Ticket prices vary. Call 224-9490 for more information.

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