| Sarah Heinonen
HAMPDEN – The Theatre Guild of Hampden is bringing vaudeville to town, that is, if the characters can stop arguing long enough.
The guild is performing, “The Sunshine Boys,” a play written by Neil Simon in 1972 about two vaudeville actors who had a successful career of over 40 years, but their relationship deteriorated, and they went their separate ways. Eleven years later, the two reunite for a television special but their old animosity returns.
“The two main characters are like grumpy old men,” said Director Rick Rubin. “It’s older humor, so people who lived through this era of comedy would get a kick out of it. It’s a lot of slapstick humor, but kids would enjoy it, too.”
This is Rubin’s first time directing with the guild. So why choose “The Sunshine Boys?”
“This kind of reminds me of my past,” Rubin said. “My brother, [Robert Rubin], who is in the show, has been prodding me for several years.” He said the 1975 movie of “The Sunshine Boys,” starring George Burns and Walter Matthau, was a favorite of theirs when they were young.
The Theatre Guild of Hampden, created in 2004, is a regional theater.
“We get people from all over,” Rubin said, adding that there are roughly 75 to 100 members of the guild.
“We really started as a children’s theater,” said Rubin. Now, he said, they do three shows each year – two plays and one musical. This season, in addition to “The Sunshine Boys,” the guild will produce “Mamma Mia” in March 2020 and “Steel Magnolias” that June.
Rubin said that in the past four years, the guild has won around 27 Massachusetts Critics Circle Awards.
“It’s kind of like the Oscars of Western Mass.,” said Rubin. He credits artistic director Mark Giza with the Theatre Guild of Hampden’s success.
“The Sunshine Boys” will be at the Hampden Town House, located at 625 Main St., from Nov. 8 to Nov. 10 and Nov. 15 to Nov. 17. Showtime is at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. There is a 2 p.m. matinee on Sundays.
Tickets are $15 for ages 60 and up and $20 for those under 60. They can be purchased at the door or at theatreguildofhampden.org.