The Sunshine Boys at The Guthrie

Raye Birk and Peter Michael Goetz reunite in the Guthrie’s version of The Sunshine Boys.

Photo courtesy of Brigitte Norby
The Sunshine Boys

When Raye Birk and Peter Michael Goetz pitched doing Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys to Guthrie artistic director Joe Dowling, they insisted that Simon’s work belongs on the Guthrie stage. “He should not be overlooked just because he writes more popular fare,” Birk argued—and Dowling agreed.

Birk and Goetz worked with director Gary Gisselman on the Guthrie’s A Christmas Carol in 2002, and they are looking forward to re-creating some of the chemistry that made that show so memorable.

The play begins when two aging vaudevillians, who used to be a famous team but have been feuding for decades, are asked to revive their act for a retrospective television show. There are two distinct kinds of humor in the play, says Birk: “There’s character-based comedy and their old act, which had a different flavor than the popular humor of today—bawdier, more like the comedy of Benny Hill.” But the comedy is balanced and buoyed by the deeper relationship between these men. “The specter of old age casts a shadow over the play,” Birk says. Nevertheless, his forecast for the show is mostly sunny. July 13–Sept. 2. Guthrie Theater, 612-377-2224,