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STAGE REVIEW Van Patten, Gorshin bring some 'Sunshine' to Powers

Friday, October 26, 2001

The exceptional comedic chemistry between the two stars was a constant delight throughout the evening.
YOUNGSTOWN -- It was a chilly, windy night, but television, theater and movie stars Dick Van Patten and Frank Gorshin brought some sunshine to Youngstown on Thursday evening in a bravura performance of Neil Simon's hit "The Sunshine Boys" at Edward W. Powers Auditorium.
The comedy is Simon's valentine to vaudeville, telling the story of two erstwhile performers, Lewis and Clark, also known as The Sunshine Boys, whose heyday and 43-year partnership has long since vanished and been replaced by a grudge that has led to an 11-year silence between the two. Simon made use of comedy as a defense mechanism in bringing the psychological nuances of the characters to life.
Story: Willie Clark (Gorshin) lives in a shabby New York hotel room watching soap operas and reading obituaries of his old cronies in Variety. Al Lewis (Van Patten) spends his days sitting on the porch of his daughter's home in New Jersey basically just listening to the shrubbery grow and doting on his grandchildren.
Enter Clark's nephew, Ben Silverman (James Van Patten), who talks the two old grumps into one last TV appearance in a salute to American show business with one of their most beloved comedy sketches, "The Doctor's Office." Their ensuing misadventures are vintage comedy spiced with a delicate blend of poignancy and mutual love for the craft, playing up oldie-but-goodie gags while gently teaching a lesson about the high cost of hanging on to bitterness and disappointment.
Both Van Patten and Gorshin are perfectly suited to their roles, and their long careers and experience show through in their considerable talents. The exceptional comedic chemistry and perfect timing between the two was a constant delight to the audience throughout the evening.
The stars: Van Patten is probably best known to the public as television's Tom Bradford, the father on the long-running hit series "Eight is Enough," although his acting credits are numerous, beginning when he was a child actor on the stage and continuing through radio, television and movies.
Gorshin has long been a popular entertainer and impressionist, though one of his most defining roles was that of the Riddler on the "Batman" series of the 1960s, and he also has appeared in guest-starring roles on many TV series throughout his career. He got to make use of his talent in this show with a brief but dead-on impression of Ed Sullivan.
The younger Van Patten has followed in his father's footsteps with many appearances on stage, screen and television appearances to his credit, and he also displayed a keen sense of comedic timing in this production.
Rounding out the cast in supporting roles were Terry Lynn Carlson, Jon Andrew Hegge, Illeana Kirven, Lola Lesheim and Barry N. ZeVan.