BROADWAY BOUND is buffo at the Masquers
Brothers Stanley (Chris Dewey, left) and Eugene (Zac Schuman, right) desperately search for an idea they can develop into a comedy sketch that will launch their careers as comedy writers in The Masquers Playhouse production of Neil Simon's "Broadway Bound. Photo by Jerry Telfer.
BROADWAY BOUND by Neil Simon, directed by Phoebe Moyer. Masquers Playhouse. The playhouse is located off of Highway 580 (Richmond Parkway exit) at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond across from the Hotel Mac. 510-232-4031 or www.masquers.org.
January 29 – February 5, 2012
Those living in the San Francisco Bay Area are fortunate to have a plethora of small non-equity theatres that mount high quality productions to supplement the handful of larger professional theatres. The Masquers in charming Point Richmond is one of those 99 seat community venues that consistently receive accolades. For their first production in the 2012 season they have engaged professional theatre jack-of-all trades Phoebe Moyer to direct Neil Simon’s play Broadway Bound.
Broadway Bound (1986) is the last play in Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical trilogy that includes Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983) and Biloxi Blues (1985). In all the plays the family name is Jerome and Eugene is the personification of Neil Simon. From top to bottom the cast includes Grandpa Ben (Avi Jacobson), married daughters Kate (Marilyn Hughes) and Blanche (Georgie Craig), Kate’s husband Jack (Timothy Beagley) and their sons Stan (Chris Dewey) and Eugene (Zac Schuman).
The younger Eugene and Stan his older brother and mentor have ambitions to become famous comedy writers. They still live at home in the post-World War II Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Their mother Kate is the stay at home stable influence in the play while the others come and go. Husband Jack is mysteriously absent and this is the clue that will switch the emphasis of the play. The all out hilarious opening comedy sequences by Eugene and Stan’s interaction with almost senile Grampa Ben switches seamlessly into a family drama.
At the time Eugene and Stan are seeing their careers take off their parent’s marriage is falling apart. Comedy and drama collide when the boys use the family situation to write a successful comedy sketch that receives national attention on CBS radio showcasing new writers. When the Jerome family has gathered around the radio to hear the sketch, parental pride quickly turns to accusations as the older Jeromes realize they are the brunt of the humor. It is no longer a joking matter and mirrors Jack and Kate’s crumbling relationship.
Simon uses the device of breaking the fourth wall with cogent and often hysterical asides to the audience by Eugene and is a master at mixing the drama with his comedy lines that keep the totality of the play in balance. Every actor is given lines that define character without ever requiring exposition.
It may be inappropriate to single anyone out of the cast for special mention but Avi Jacobson who was trained in Israel is absolutely believable and superb with his pitch perfect timing and demeanor. Although Zac Schuman as Eugene and Chris Dewey as Stan are marvelous ensemble performers unto themselves, it is Marilyn Hughes as mother/wife/ caretaker who is the dominating force with her spectacular under playing of her role. Director Phoebe Moyer’s directorial skills are on display as she never allows the interrelationships to get out of hand with her perfect pacing and unobtrusive stage directions.
Director Moyer also has the luxury of having a charming two level set on which to move her actors about. Oddly, there is no mention of a set designer, just a listing of 10 set construction workers. Bravo to them and the entire production crew who have added greatly to the fine acting making Broadway Bound well worth the trip to Point Richmond.
Kedar K. Adour, MDCourtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com