Confession time: I've been avoiding Profile Theatre all season. Profile's mission—to devote each season to the work of a single playwright—is a great one, giving audiences the chance to really delve into a writer's body of work. Supplemented by readings and talkbacks, Profile's approach encourages a consideration of plays as literature in a way that most companies' love-'em-and-leave-'em approaches do not.
That being said, if you're not excited about the playwright selected, you're SOL. Suffice to say that it was rather difficult for this reviewer to get excited about this season's selection of Neil Simon, one of the most prolific and frequently produced playwrights in the English language (Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Lost in Yonkers, The Odd Couple, and so on). This reviewer, in fact, would be perfectly content to never see another production of The Odd Couple again—that includes the female version. And because sometimes when there's nothing nice to say, even the Mercury chooses to say nothing at all–we haven't run a single review of a Profile show all season.
A sense of creeping obligation compelled me at last to check in on the final fully staged production of their 2009 season, The Sunshine Boys, which handily demonstrates that Profile is still doing the same things right they've always done. The Sunshine Boys is one of Simon's most frequently produced plays, a wacky heart-tugger about a vaudeville comedy duo that is reunited after years of estrangement. Profile's production is well paced, and as funny as can be expected—Richard Mathews and Michael Berkson are appropriately batty as the aging vaudevillians, embracing the over-the-top antics of their grouchy characters with obvious, contagious enthusiasm. Thom Bray's direction emphasizes brisk pacing and silly sight gags—it is an absolutely solid production of a play that does not ever need to be produced again.
Next season, Profile tackles Horton Foote, the recently deceased playwright and screenwriter who won a Pulitzer for his play The Young Man from Atlanta and an Academy Award for his screen adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. Foote is critically well regarded but lesser known, with a body of work that focuses on the lives of small-town Americans. He is, in short, the type of playwright we count on Profile to introduce us to—and we can all just put the Neil Simon era behind us.