[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n the name of full disclosure, I don’t find Neil Simon funny, nor am I a big fan of his work. However, in the Brighton Beach Trilogy, and especially in “Broadway Bound” its final entry, one sees a writer at the peak of his creative powers.
“Broadway Bound” is a sincere and engaging tale of a young man at the threshold of where his world divides. That point in every life where what must be shed defines where one continues to.
I don’t see “Broadway Bound” as a comedy, but as a work to be placed among “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”, “The Subject Was Roses”, and “The Glass Menagerie”; a work that explores one of the great themes of literature, of a child’s evolution into his own self. “Broadway Bound” is a well crafted tale of that painful, daunting time where one ceases being a reflection of his or her parents, is no longer an appendage of their family, but becomes the person who they must be.
The current production nearing its end at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble offers a near perfect staging of Simon’s piece. Ian Alda as Eugene, Simon’s alter ego in the trilogy and Noah James as his brother Stanley have their world rocked when Stanley wins them a writing audition with CBS radio. Their world however is already rather rocked.
The marriage between their parents (Gina Hecht and Michael Mantell) is faltering. Their aging grandfather (Allan Miller) is complicating everyone’s life but especially that of his older daughter Blanche (Betsy Zajko), who has upset his socialistic sensibilities by having had the audacity of marrying a rich man.
It is hard to imagine a better suited cast. Mantell and Hecht are superb in their roles, bringing a muted tragedy into the piece that flows with honesty.
Miller is flawless in his performance, personifying that world that cannot change, as is Zajko in her role of the discarded daughter, showing us the human cost of such intransigence.
Jason Alexander, who directs, is well acquainted with the material having created the role of Stanley in the original Broadway Production. His respect, as well as his love, for the material is more than apparent in his staging. It feels as if he has taken every possible step in ensuring that this is a first class production, and he has succeeded.
Alexander and his producer Larry Field have not allowed any aspect of this show to fall beneath their measure, this is obvious in Bruce Goodrich’s excellent set, Kate Bergh’s precise costumes, and Katherine S. Hunt’s spot on prop design.
The result is a production for all to come and luxuriate in the richness of; even those of us who don’t like Neil Simon.
Performances:Aug. 2 – Sept. 21 Thursdays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 18 ONLY Fridays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 19* Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 13, 20 Sundays at 2 p.m.: Sept. 14, 21 *The third Friday of every month is wine night at the Odyssey: enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show.