Probably no other playwright of recent times has understood the importance of structure and conflict more than Neil Simon -- not to mention the mechanics of building a laugh. While this has a down side -- sometimes Simon is slavishly dedicated to form, with the result that he forgets to fill in his characters or to cover up the machinery and artifice -- The Sunshine Boys finds Simon operating at near-peak form. As with The Odd Couple, he reveals a special flair for combustible male-to-male relationships; his eye (and ear) for the ways in which men constantly compete with each other is in especially fine form. And as usual, there are plenty of jokes - most of them good -- to keep things lively. Herbert Ross's direction is smooth and polished and adeptly makes the change of tone in the last third seem fairly natural; if it lacks distinction, it does a marvelous job of serving Simon's script and showcasing the talents of its stars. Those stars do not disappoint, either. Walter Matthau -- playing considerably older than he was, but then it often seems that Matthau was born an old man anyway -- is a cantankerous, wily joy, spitting out his lines with an invigorating venom and employing his unique take on physical comedy to good effect. George Burns matches him step for step -- and betters him occasionally, replacing Matthau's venom with an acidity that cuts deeper. His ease before the camera masks the amount of care and work that lie underneath his portrayal. Both stars would follow Boys with two big commercial hits, Oh God for Burns and The Bad News Bears for Matthau.