Two masters of the stage, Neil Simon and George Bernard Shaw, have plays on regional and college stages this week.
In Montpelier, Ohio, the Williams County Community Theater presents The Sunshine Boys, Simon's acerbic comedy about two former vaudevillians reuniting for a television special.
The team of Al Lewis and Willie Clark (played by Eric Davis of Montpelier and Gene Asher of Edgerton, Ohio) worked together for 43 years, but after dissolving the act over "creative differences" - they couldn't stand each other - they haven't spoken for 12 years.
Willie's agent and nephew, Ben (Bob McAfee of Bryan), has gotten Willie a television gig. There's a catch, however: He has to appear with Al.
Sparks fly and fun ensues.
"We last did [The Sunshine Boys] in 1968, '69, or '70, and it was quite the crowd-pleaser," director Alona McAfee said earlier this week.
The key to making it work is to inject some humanity into Willie, who is a cranky, almost nasty, old man, McAfee said, adding that Asher manages beautifully.
The character of Al is adorable, and Asher is a very funny actor, she said. Others in the cast are Sharon Pristas, Betsy Zuver, Tom Thompson, John Overberg, and Jose Vasquez.
McAfee, who is directing her 10th WCCT production in about 30 years, said that although she would consider The Sunshine Boys a play for most ages, her assistant director is concerned about one scene with some racy material in it, so a PG-13 rating is probably appropriate.
The Williams County Community Theater opens "The Sunshine Boys" tonight in the Montpelier Playhouse, 501 South East Ave., Montpelier, Ohio. Performances are 8 p.m. today, tomorrow, and Tuesday-March 5, with matinees at 2:30 p.m. Sunday and March 6. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students. Information: 419-485-3861.
Another Neil Simon offering, Promises, Promises, runs through Sunday at the University of Findlay.
Based on the 1960 movie The Apartment, the musical comedy concerns Chuck Baxter, an ambitious young accountant who allows his married bosses to use his apartment for romantic trysts.
Chuck has fallen in love with Fran, a company cafeteria worker, not realizing that she is being pursued by his own boss, J.D. Sheldrake.
Dr. Micheal Anders is the producer and musical director; Vicki McClurkin is the stage director. The large cast includes Matthew Harris as Chuck Baxter, Jaclyn Hilborn as Fran, and Gregg Wozniak as J.D. Sheldrake.
The University of Findlay presents "Promises, Promises" at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow and 6 p.m. Sunday in the John and Hester Powell Grimm Theatre on the Findlay campus. Tickets are $5 for adults, and $3 for seniors and students. Information: 419-434-4531.
Although Wooster, Ohio, is a little far afield to travel to a production, the rarely produced play may make the trip worthwhile.
Mrs. Warren's Profession, George Bernard Shaw's exploration of prostitution in Victorian times, opens tonight at the College of Wooster.
"Shaw argues that society forces poor women into prostitution. It's not a moral choice, according to Shaw. Instead, it's a decision based on economics and opportunity," said director Ansley Valentine, assistant professor of theater.
The main characters are Vivie (Claire Long), an independent and well-educated young woman who learns that her mother, Mrs. Warren (Andrea Hiebler), at one time was a prostitute who ran a chain of brothels. The family's wealth stems from that profession, which Mrs. Warren argues, was far more desirable than life as a factory worker.
She further argues that poverty and society are the real villains, and her stories create a moral dilemma for Vivie.
Other characters are Frank (Patrick Midgley), who wants to marry Vivie - and wants her dowry, Praed (Robert Wilson) Crofts (Nat Jeffirs), the Rev. Gardner (Alex Gauvin), and the wealthy socialite (Eva Bernard).
Valentine says that although the story is set in the Victorian era, it resonates today with messages about social issues, censorship, and hypocrisy.
John Finn, the college's director of public information, said that given the play's content, the department of theater is recommending it for audiences in their teens and older.
The College of Wooster presents "Mrs. Warren's Profession" through March 5 in Schoolroy Theatre, 329 East University St., Wooster, Ohio. Performances are at 8:15 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and at 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $9 for adults and $6 for seniors, faculty, staff, and non-College of Wooster students. Information: 330-263-2241.