Hindi Greenberg: ‘Broadway Bound’ is a hit
Special to Prospector
Legacy Productions latest play, “Broadway Bound,” is a winner.
This is the last chapter of playwright Neil Simon’s Eugene trilogy, following “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “Biloxi Blues,” both staged by Legacy in previous years.
“Broadway Bound” opened on Broadway in December 1986. It received a Tony Award nomination for Best Play and was a 1987 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Akin to the other plays in his trilogy, “Broadway Bound” is autobiographical, although this third installment is perhaps most unburdened by contrived nostalgia and is, therefore, the most honest.
In this play, set in 1949, twenty-seven year old Eugene Jerome, Simon’s alter ego, wise cracks about his colorful, working class Jewish family.
Eugene often breaks the fourth wall to address the audience directly, both to explain his ambitions to write comedy with his career-minded brother Stanley and display his amazement with, but deep affection for, his dysfunctional family.
One strength of Simon’s playwriting is his observation of behavioral detail, most amusingly of Eugene’s seemingly humorless, but nevertheless hilarious grandfather.
Simon has an acute ear for the guarded retort in which caring must be couched as criticism, illuminating the pain in family relationships as well as the amusing skirmishes. Simon shows that it’s not so much what is said that hurts, but what is left unsaid that causes the most injury.
Although there’s humor, there’s also heartache in this play. Happy endings are great but often they depict the world as black and white.
However, Eugene’s world is not simplistic, it’s full of nuance. Eugene learns that, unlike the movies, real life doesn’t always culminate in a happy ending.
Director Alvis LeGate has excellently unified his ensemble to exhibit superb timing in order to portray the incessant goading and squabbling that substitute for demonstrative affection in the Jerome family.
As Eugene, Patrick Wheatley is a witty and charming guide to his family’s idiosyncrasies.
Sue LeGate-Halford is eminently believable as his mother Kate, with one glorious event in her life, related fondly and movingly.
John Bush as the curmudgeonly, socialist grandfather Ben has found his acting niche; his droll comments, dispensed unintentionally, are the funniest moments in the play.
Older brother Stanley is dynamically portrayed by Kris Meadows, a foil to Eugene’s more seemingly calm demeanor.
Frank Swaringen as Jack, the wayward father, expressively exhibits the weight of his life choices in his posture.
And Nadia White (who made a special appearance for only the one performance) as Kate’s sister Blanche, affects just the right tone of love, hurt and concern towards her family.
Darryl Stines’ attractive set design of a two story working class home allows functional flow up, down and around for the actors. Light and sound designs by Chris Christensen nicely add to the ambiance, as do the excellent period costumes by Libby Bonomolo.
My only complaint with “Broadway Bound” isn’t with Legacy’s excellent production, but with the playwright. Simon has Eugene state that “every writer needs an editor,’’ and this play could have used one.
There are several scenes, containing excessive dialog, which could benefit from an editor’s pencil.
Other than that quibble, this production is well-done theater that shouldn’t be missed.
It runs through Oct. 8 at the Nevada Theatre.
Hindi Greenberg fortunately—or unfortunately—recognizes some of those members of the Jerome family. And she would have liked to have been the editor with the red pencil after Neil Simon first wrote this play — it would have been a half hour shorter.
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