Directed by David New
At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre
Wonderful production of Simon’s semi-autobiographical dramedy fueled with terrific performances.
Neil Simon – the greatest comedy writer of the 20th Century – finished his semi-autobiographical trilogy: Brighton Beach Memoirs & Biloxi Blues finishing with Broadway Bound in 1986. These plays are an expert blend of drama and comedy, hence a “dramedy.”
Broadway Bound is billed as Eugene’s (Max Polski) story but I believe that it is more Ben’s (Mike Nussbaum) and Kate’s (Carmen Roman) story as it is a powerful family drama with loads of trademark Simon one-liners. Utilizing a magnificent two level house set (design by Collette Pollard), director David New has cast a superb group including the fabulous and ageless Mike Nussbaum as the Socialist grandfather Ben. Nussbaum steals his scenes with his exquisite comic timing.
The story is the coming of age for both Stanley (Jason Karasev) and Eugene (Max Polski) who have a strong desire to be comic writers for CBS Radio & TV in the late 1940’s as TV was in its infancy. We hear the brothers as they agonize over trying to write a sketch that could land they a gig with CBS. These hilarious scenes find Stanley leading the brotherly partnership toward creatively finding their comic voice while Eugene lands zinging retorts.
While the brother’s struggle to write, we see how Kate is dealing with the disintegration of her marriage and the breakup of the family. Kate is the stoic matriarch who devotes her life to her family but that becomes threatened by her husband Jack’s (Richard McWilliams) admission of an extra-martial affair. Carmen Roman’s subtle but powerful performance anchors the family drama.
Neil Simon blends his characters with loads of heart as they truthfully depict an ethnic American 1940’s family filling his play with a mixture of humor, pathos and realism. When the brothers get their first skit on radio, the family and many of the neighbors in Brighten Beach ‘hear’ themselves in the skit. I believe Simon’s Broadway Bound is about both Simon’s family and countless American families thus its immense worthiness.
This is both a quite funny show and a fine family drama with memorable and fully developed characters that we can relate to and sympathize with. Broadway Bound is a mirror into a time when families move from the tough times of the Depression and War Era to the emerging fast-paced world of the prosperous 1950-60’s. The writing is superb, witty and hilarious; the acting is fabulous. Kudos to Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre for mounting one of Neil Simon’s best plays.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: June 16, 2011
At Drury Lane Oakborrk Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL, call 630-530-0111, www.drurylaneoakbrook.com, tickets $35 – $46, Wednesdays at 1:30 pm, Thursdays at 1:30 & 8 pm, Fridays at 8:30, Saturdays at 5 & 8:30 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through July 31, 2011