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THEATER REVIEWS : Conejo Players Pay Tribute to Old Team : Production of 'Sunshine Boys,' Neil Simon's salute to vaudeville, offers impeccable performances.


One of vaudeville's leading and most beloved comedy teams for 43 years, Al Lewis and Willie Clark, haven't spoken to each other for more than a decade: Clark can no longer abide Lewis' irritating mannerisms. Television beckons with an offer for a nationally broadcast onetime reunion. Can Clark tolerate Lewis' finger-jabbing long enough for one last appearance before an audience of millions?

So goes "The Sunshine Boys," Neil Simon's tribute to classic vaudeville. The Conejo Players are presenting the comedy at their theater in Thousand Oaks through Oct. 1.

The play might be likened to an extension of "The Odd Couple"--a pair of longtime friends, grumbling at each other for a couple of hours--sweetened by Simon's obvious affection for the vaudeville milieu and by some authentic-seeming comic routines. One, known as The Doctor Sketch, is the centerpiece of Lewis and Clark's act; other, equally smartly paced routines appear disguised as dialogue between the two men.

Two of those, in which Lewis and Clark confuse the names of some old pals, are near-classics in the same genre as Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First," impeccably performed by Wayne Collier (Clark) and Don Perlman (Lewis) on the Conejo stage under Gary Romm's direction.

Bill Hillstrom plays Ben Silverman, who tries to pull Lewis and Clark together; Walker Christian, dolled up in a Loni Anderson wig, adds to the doctor sketch as a buxom nurse, and Joanna Jocelyn plays a no-nonsense registered nurse. Doug Reese and Mike McCauley appear briefly.

Director Romm knows where the punch lines are, though one of the principals seemed to be having some trouble remembering a few of them on opening night.


* WHAT: "The Sunshine Boys"

* WHEN: Thursday through Saturday nights at 8 through Oct. 1

* WHERE: Conejo Players Theater, 351 S. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks

* COST: $8 general admission Thursdays, $10 Fridays and $12 Saturdays.

* FYI: Discounts are available for groups, children under 12, and seniors. For reservations or further information, call 495-3715

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