Monday, October 29, 2007

Enter...Laughing! (Part 2)

When the GSP Blog Team asked me to reflect a little on The Sunshine Boys, I thought of some of my favorite moments from rehearsals through performances....(continued from previous post)

  • That final scene. Klugman and Dooley are rightfully hailed as masters of American comedy, with careers spanning classics of television, film, and of course, theatre. But The Sunshine Boys also gives them the opportunity to remind audiences of their unequaled strength as dramatic actors. The last five minutes of the play, in which the team of Lewis & Clark make (an undoubtedly brief) peace, never fails to choke me up and make me laugh at the same time. Those contradictions? Just like real life. And it's beautifully, touchingly captured by Klugman and Dooley, still in their prime and at the top of their game. One can't learn the kind of timing these masters naturally possess.
  • Ebony Jo Ann's scene opposite Jack. The rapport and admiration shared between these two actors (they first played the acerbic Registered Nurse and the equally-cutting Willie Clark, respectively, opposite each other on Broadway ten years ago) shines through despite the combative dialogue. The result is one of the funniest scenes in the entire play (and that's saying something!) and a scene that has just "clicked", from Day One of rehearsal.
  • Jack's "Enterrrrrr!" Has a line ever been spoken with more relish than Klugman's immortal proclamation as Willie which raises the ire of his partner Al? Not only does this prove the old comedy adage that the funniest line in a play is rarely joke-oriented but more often situational, Jack has made yet another Neil Simon moment his own. Remember Oscar Madison's immortal frustration with the notes his roommate keeps leaving around which read "F.U."?...
  • Just watching the play, night after night. As we celebrate a week's worth of performances, I still marvel at how every audience is different, finding laughs in new and unexpected places, and intuitively responding to subtle differences in the cast's performances from one night to the next. The audience really is a character in the play, and it's like having a new cast member join the company each evening! This is why theatre will always move me more than film; each audience gets to see something that will never be seen again. Every performance is living and breathing, and especially when you're working with a company of restless creators led by Jack Klugman, you never know when a new flourish or discovery might instinctually show up.

You can probably tell that the thing I'll remember most about The Sunshine Boys is this company. And isn't it always that way? As with any enterprise, theatrical or otherwise, it comes down to the people. Among the many, many things I've learned from David Saint is the importance of surrounding yourself with the best people, both as actors and as human beings. David has the remarkable gift of assembling groups that start out merely as actors of various backgrounds, and end up as a family. I'll always cherish these individuals and our time together. While I'm certain our paths will cross again at George Street and elsewhere, these past weeks at The Sunshine Boys will be hard to top, indeed.

posted by Joe Marchese, Assistant Director, The Sunshine Boys

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