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Sunshine Boys brighten Whidbey Playhouse

At a play rehearsal on Thursday, Oct. 7, Al Lewis ( played by Jack McPherson), left, sits while being examined by Willie Clark (played by Jack Sondericker) during a doctor’s office comedy sketch. - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
At a play rehearsal on Thursday, Oct. 7, Al Lewis ( played by Jack McPherson), left, sits while being examined by Willie Clark (played by Jack Sondericker) during a doctor’s office comedy sketch.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

Comic legend and character Willie Clark claims that only words with a “k” in them are funny. Chicken is funny. Pickle is funny. Cupcake is funny. Maryland and tomatoes? Not funny. But there seem to be at least a few exceptions to his rule. Sunshine is spelled without a “k,” and the word “boys” doesn’t have one either. And yet the combination of the two is hilarious.

Neil Simon’s “Sunshine Boys” opens at the Whidbey Playhouse Thursday, Oct. 14. The off-season show directed by Dottie Morgan tells the 1980s story of an ex-Vaudeville comedy team who worked together for 43 years before deal-breaking aggravations broke the pair up and caused one to resent the other. Eleven years after the split, the two are asked to do a special sketch on CBS causing a decade’s worth of buried insults and puns to be brought to the surface.

The play’s producer, Mary Lou Chandler, said Morgan has been wanting to do this play for a long time but was holding out until actors Jack Sondericker and Jack McPherson agreed to take on the lead roles of comedians Willie Clark and Al Lewis. Morgan had worked with the men previously and knew they were meant for these parts.

Jack Sondericker is a Playhouse veteran having done plays since the early 1970s, and McPherson is a local legend too. He served as the mayor of Coupeville, and he and his wife, Joan, were instrumental in establishing and conserving Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. Audience members will easily understand why Morgan held out for the actors. Though the play’s plot isn’t action-packed, the chemistry and witty banter of the men is more than enough to carry the show.

“It’s a lesson in dramatics watching these two,” Morgan said.

The humor stems from common situations -- strained family relationships, broken friendships and petty arguments -- making it easy for the audience to laugh and appreciate the humor found in the unnecessary, silly problems people create for themselves when looking at the world through a glass half empty.

Since the show is off-season, the crew has had to work extra hard to get everything ready in time and rehearse with limited stage access, but Morgan is confident that the cast will be able to put on a spectacular show.

“We’re gonna show ‘em,” she said at a rehearsal last week.

The “Sunshine Boys” runs through Oct. 24. The showtimes are 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 and can be purchased by calling 360-679-2237. Visit www.whidbeyplayhouse.com or stop by the box office 730 SE Midway Blvd. in Oak Harbor for more information.

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