This town’s community theater group is well known for putting on comedic performances, but its leaders say their next show is setting up to be particularly amusing.
The Towne Players will start their run of Neil Simon’s Broadway comedy, “The Sunshine Boys,” this weekend, with 8 p.m. shows Jan. 27, Jan. 28 and Feb. 3 and 2 p.m. matinees on Jan. 28 and Feb. 4. Doors open an hour prior to all showtimes at the Garner Performing Art Center.
‘The Sunshine Boys’ tells the story of Al Lewis and Willie Clark, a once-thriving pair of comedians who experienced differences before splitting up. Though they’ve grown old by the time the play is set, Lewis and Clark still can’t get along when given the opportunity to reunite for a television special on the history of comedy.
Beth Honeycutt, the Towne Players’ artistic director, said the Garner performances will stay pretty true to the original script, set in the 1970s.
“We’ve been doing Neil Simon shows for the past four years because the audience seems to really like Neil Simon,” Honeycutt said.
The role of Al Lewis will be played by Jim O’Brien, and Willie Clark will be played by Michael Dunavan.
Honeycutt worked with both actors for Simon’s “Plaza Suite” comedy at the GPAC last year, but it occurred to her the two didn’t get to work together because that play is composed of three separate acts.
“I’ve had my eye on this for a while and just wasn’t sure I had the people to play Willie and Al,” Honeycutt said. “When I saw these fellows, I asked them to read and I pre-cast them before we even had auditions.”
Honeycutt said it was unintentional that all of the adult plays she selected this year revolve around aging – how both aging people and those around them deal with it.
In the case of “The Sunshine Boys,” Honeycutt said those dealings are really funny.
“It’s not really sad or morose,” she said. “It’s just a look at how aging goes. I like the idea of it not being stereotypical old guys. These two gentlemen (O’Brien and Dunavan) have done a very good job of making these two men very real. They’re very three-dimensional.”
Michael McGee also has a big role playing Willie’s nephew, Ben, who is instrumental in bringing Willie and Al back together.
“That’s where you have these older characters, but then you have these younger folks around them and how they deal with aging,” Honeycutt said, “as we all do with dealing with our parents and older relatives, how we get frustrated at times, but you also get to see the older people’s frustration with the younger people as well. It goes both ways.”
McGee is a past president of Raleigh Little Theatre’s board of directors, bringing a tie between two local theatrical communities.
“It’s a very nice thing when we can all work together well,” Honeycutt said.
Breaking away from the norm, there will be no Saturday night show on Feb. 4. The play’s run will end with a matinee that day.
If you go
What: The Towne Players of Garner present “The Sunshine Boys”
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 27, Jan. 28 and Feb. 3; 2 p.m. Jan. 28 and Feb. 4
Where: Garner Performing Arts Center, 742 W. Garner Road
Tickets: $15 for evening shows and $12 for matinees at the door; slight discounts online at www.towneplayers.org