The Beck Center for the Arts production of ‘Broadway Bound’ is a comfortable evening of theater
Along with a host of Broadway and film successes that included Sweet Charity, The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, Lost in Yonkers, The Goodbye Girl, Promises Promises, Little Me, Come Blow Your Horn Neil Simon wrote what was to be known as his trilogy.
These were shows based on his growing up in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York during the Great Depression (Brighton Beach Memoirs), his being drafted during the final year of World War II (Biloxi Blues) and his and his brother’s search for success as a comedy writers (Broadway Bound). The final chapter of this trilogy (Broadway Bound) is now on stage at the Beck Center for the Arts in the newly named Senney Theater.
Eugene (Zach Palumbo) and his brother Stan (Daniel Telford) are once again living at home with their parents Kate (Susan Stein) and Jack (Alan Safier) as well as their grandfather, Ben (Austin Pendleton). Eugene works in the stock room of a music company while his brother slaves away in the clothing industry. Their dream is to one day be a top comedic writing team for television.
They get their big break when Stan (using all the hutzpah he can muster) manages to get a writing audition at CBS. The only problem is they have until 10 o’clock the next morning to complete the script. After spending the entire night bouncing and arguing ideas off of each other they do what all great writers eventually learn to do. They write what is familiar to them...their family.
Here the have a gold mine of comedy. Their grandfather is a devout Socialist who falls asleep anywhere and everywhere. Their father is a fabric cutter for women’s raincoats (which they change to his being in women’s underwear). Their mother spends all of her time and energy trying to keep the family intact. Eventually they deliver the script in two weeks and in spite of the late delivery are given jobs writing for a new radio show.
Problems arise when Jack notices the similarities between their first show and his home life. It is revealed that Jack has had an on again off again affair with a woman who is now terminally ill. Grandfather Ben is married but separated from his wife but his now wealthy daughter Blanche (Anne McEvoy) wants to reunite them in Florida. Eugene has fallen in love but is thwarted at every turn by Stan. This whole cornucopia of family life is accompanied by a lot of arguments and door slamming for effect.
As for the production the first thing that should be mentioned is the multi tiered set designed by Cheri DeVol. It is truly Broadway worthy with all the fine details you would expect from the 50s. The same can be said about the costuming by Inda Blatch-Geib. The lighting design by Trad A. Burns is superb. The only glitch is once again the sub standard sound system that made it hard to hear all of the comic bits.
As for the actors, they do the outstanding Neil Simon script justice. Zach Palumbo as Eugene is allowed a number of clever asides to the audience and his chemistry with Daniel Telford as Stan makes you really believe they are brothers. The slow simmering debacle that is the failing marriage of Susan Stein as Kate and Alan Safier as Jack erupts in a climatic argument as Kate fights for her marriage. Anne McEvoy as Blanche is terrific as the nouveau riche daughter as she tries to lure Ben away to Florida. Lastly, there is Austin Pendleton as Ben who is the linch pin of the play. His is the comic spark that keeps the proceedings lively and pertinent.
One common factor that every one who sees this play will experience is the idea that it was written about their particular families. It is chock full of relatable experiences of people we have grown up with. While not as bone jarring as some productions it is more like sitting down to a dinner of comfort food and upon finishing the meal walking away very contented.
“Broadway Bound” will be on stage in the Beck Center for the Arts Senney Theater (located at 17801 Detroit Road, Lakewood, Ohio) through October 3, 2021. For tickets and information go to beckcenter.org or call (216) 521-2521.