Blue Slipper's new play stars the boss

So, yes, it’s a little awkward.

John Sullivan, editor and publisher of The Enterprise, stars in “The Sunshine Boys,” opening Friday night at the Blue Slipper Theatre. 

His appearance in the show will have absolutely no bearing or influence on the story that appears below. Really.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, Gary Fish, who stars opposite Sullivan in the award-winning Neil Simon comedy, said he has wanted to do this show for some time. 

He pitched the play to the Blue Slipper’s selection committee last year and got the green light.  

Fish and Sullivan play an old vaudeville team, “Lewis and Clark.” 

The play is set in modern times, well past the age of vaudeville. 

Lewis and Clark are retired as well as estranged. CBS calls them up out of the blue to perform on a television tribute to vaudeville. They accept, but have to get together for the first time in many years to rehearse, bickering and kvetching with hilarious results.

Fish laughs that he actually appeared in the play many years ago. 

Fish was traveling with the Montana Repertory Theatre. They were doing two plays, one of which was “The Sunshine Boys.” The other play ended up canceled, leaving Fish with just a small role in “The Sunshine Boys.” 

“I played a patient in one of the sketch scenes,” Fish said. “I traveled all over the state saying, ‘Ahhhh,’ he laughed. 

When Fish got the OK to do the show, he persuaded Sullivan to take the other lead role. 

“Gary and I had talked and thought it would be fun to play old coots. It’s nice to play an old person now that I’ve become one,” Sullivan joked Thursday.

Sullivan’s been involved in theater since his high school years. He’s done it all, from painting scenery and running lights to directing and acting.

“It’s a way of exercising your securities and submerging your insecurities, I suppose,” he said. 

Director Peggy Weisgerber had originally planned to work on the show but had not planned to direct. 

But she’s OK with that. 

Weisgerber said she likes “The Sunshine Boys” because it not only features Fish and Sullivan, but also a male comedy team.

“You don’t see the duos anymore. There was Abbott and Costello, and I loved watching Rowan and Martin and the Smothers Brothers,” she said Wednesday.

“(Dean) Martin and (Jerry) Lewis remind me a lot of this  show. Their breakup was really nasty,” Weisgerber added. 

And while the fictional characters argue and appear to hate one other intensely, Fish thinks differently.

“The two dislike each other, but they really like each other. I like the way Neil Simon remedies that. I love that about the show — it brings out their gentler aspects and shows you don’t always have to be an old crab,” Fish laughed.

---Cast members include Clayton Oberquell as Ben, Jessica Clark as Nursey,  Anjanett Hawk as Barbara, Ray Ortega as Phil, Meredith Sullivan as Registered Nurse and Gary Weisgerber as Patient.

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Show times are Friday, Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. “The Sunshine Boys” runs weekends through June 30. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Call the Blue Slipper box office at 222-7720 for reservations.