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Theater Review:

Simon play always a hit

May 08, 2010|By Brian McGackin

This weekend saw the launch of a month’s worth of performances of Neil Simon’s “The Sunshine Boys” at the Luna Playhouse in Glendale. Local actors Aramazd Stepanian and Carl Coughlan star under the direction of Edgar Allan Poe IV — a descendant of the famous writer’s brother.

I headed down to the Luna Playhouse Sunday for the opening performance. The theater is small — it seats only about 46 — but, in an intimate way, that brings the audience closer to the action on stage. I was pleased to find that it was pleasantly cool inside, because my last visit to the theater was in the heat of mid-July. I had been to the Luna Playhouse only the once before, for a small jazz concert, and had never seen a play there, so I was especially looking forward to enjoying a few good laughs courtesy of Simon’s witty writing.

Unfortunately, I left a little disappointed, though I seemed to have been the only one who felt that way.


The acting was very good, better than I expected to find in such a small venue.

Coughlan especially made his character, Al Lewis, one of the “Sunshine Boys,” come alive. Stepanian and the rest of the cast were thoroughly convincing as well, especially considering the limited stage presence of several of the actors. I was also amazed at the crew’s ability to convert such a small space into what felt like a very open set.

Despite the theater’s size, I never felt cramped or boxed in by my surroundings.

What wound up disappointing me, sacrilegious as it may sound, was actually the play itself. I’ve seen plenty of Neil Simon’s best works, and even performed in a handful myself, but there was something about “The Sunshine Boys” that didn’t quite connect with me. It dragged on a little long, was highly predictable and wasn’t nearly as funny as I had hoped. Some of the scenes even felt forced, as if they existed only to serve the narrative. It was all a little contrived, and quite a letdown.

As I mentioned, though, I seemed to have been the only one who felt this way. Most of the audience looked as though they were genuinely enjoying themselves.

Maybe it’s just me. If you’re a fan of Neil Simon, then I would suggest taking the opportunity to see “The Sunshine Boys” one weekend this month and judge for yourself.

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