FAIRFIELD — The year was 1987 and Douglas Dildine directed “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” for the Benicia Old Town Theatre Group.
Dildine, drama department coordinator at Contra Costa College, has returned to Benicia, 26 years later, and is at the helm of ”The Sunshine Boys,” which opens Friday.
“We are lucky to present it here locally,” Dildine said of the Neil Simon show about two aging vaudeville stars who hate each other but reunite for a generous cash offer to perform one show.
“The Sunshine Boys” opened on Broadway in 1972. Three years later it was made into a movie.
The script is one of Simon’s first memory plays, Dildine said. The stories are based on the people Simon worked with early on as a comedy writer.
“It’s Simon’s homage to something he feels we lost,” Dildine said.
Working with the Benicia Old Town Theatre Group is something he’s wanted for some time. The group has a warm feeling, he said.
“This is an old-style community theater that’s been around for 50 years,” he said. “You don’t stay around that long if you are doing it wrong, only if you are doing it right.”
The production has reunited him with Jerry Motta, who is playing one-half of the vaudeville team. Mark Jordan’s character completes the duo.Together, they are a great team who have nailed their roles, and comic timing, Dildine said.
“I think we have come up with something nice,” he said of the show.
Janet Duhe has stepped over from her position on the Benicia Old Town Theatre Group board to play a nurse in “The Sunshine Boys.”
A Simon fan, and granddaughter of a vaudeville actor in London, she said the show is a perfect fit for her. Her grandfather served in World War I and was captured by the Germans. He ended up in the same prisoner of war camp with French actor,singer and entertainer Maurice Chevalier. The two performed for the troops, Duhe said.
“The Sunshine Boys” is one of Simon’s funniest, Duhe said.
“I’ve got a very small role in the second act,” Duhe said. “I’ve told my friends, don’t leave, don’t go to the bathroom or you will miss me. I’m enjoying it, even when the wig falls down on my head.”
She plans on milking those few moments on stage for all they are worth, she said.
Duhe came to the United States from Britain with one suitcase and $50. She found work in the secretarial field and became a paralegal. She’s done some opera productions with North Bay Opera.
Locals have also seen her in other productions, such as “The Canterville Ghost,” “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Love, Sex and the IRS.”
She recently organized a fundraiser for Benicia Old Town Theatre Group that netted the group some important funds.
The proud Queen of the American Beauty chapter of the Red Had Society, Duhe said it’s a challenge to keep a straight face during the show.
“You just do it,” she said.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.