"The play is about a love-hate relationship between two friends and how they respect each other's ability but, after working together most of their lives, they end up in a bitter friendship," Dale said. "My inspiration for directing the play comes from Neil Simon's writing – he has the ability to show us the raw emotions and failings of people, usually with humour. The challenge is to make this version a little different for the actors because, having previously done the show, they need to be enthused and fresh with their delivery, changing nuances where appropriate."
Rex Gray plays Al Lewis, one of the vaudeville team known as "Lewis and Clark". "Over the course of 40-odd years, Al and Willie Clark not only grew to hate each other but never spoke to each other off-stage throughout the final year of their act," he said. "Much of the humour is derived from efforts to get the two cantankerous actors into the same room for a rehearsal, their differences of opinion once they re-unite and their shenanigans on the TV reunion broadcast."
After a break of many years, Rex returned to theatre in 2010 and has since performed with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of WA, Playlovers and Melville and Old Mill Theatres in Fiddler On The Roof, Candide, The Gondoliers, Scrooge The Musical, Born Yesterday, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Snow and Ash, Hail Mary I and II, The Beast and The Beauty and It's All Greek To Me I and II.
"He struggles with memory problems, making it difficult for him to get work in the advertising industry. As a result, Willie is a sad and lonely old man who comes across as grumpy and quite often openly hostile."
The main challenge, according to Tom, is getting the balance right between the grumpy, ungrateful old man and the frightened, lonely character within. "Another is being able to switch between the belligerence towards Al and the expression of tender memories towards the man Willie once admired so much," he said.
"The Sunshine Boys appealed because I am a great fan of Neil Simon's plays, having twice played Felix in The Odd Couple," he said. "Now as an older actor, I felt the role of Willie would be ideal for me. The chance to work with director Dale James was another important factor in my decision to audition."
The Sunshine Boys plays at 8pm, November 1, 2, 3 and 4 with a 2pm matinee November 4. Tickets are $25, $20 concession – book at www.trybooking.com/SJWU. The heritage-listed Old Mill Theatre is on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth (opposite the Windsor Hotel and Australia Post).