A critic once wrote of playwright Neil Simon, “Simon may be the greatest comedy writer of the 20th century” – and it’s quite obvious why this comment was made upon watching this quasi-autobiographical stage play.
Set in 1949 the story explores the lives of a working-class Jewish family. Eugene Jerome (Patrick Holman) and his ambitious brother Stanley (Simon Lee) dream of one-day becoming comedy writers. Their dream slowly becomes a reality, but their artistic integrity is tarnished when they base their comedy scripts around their family.
The first half of the play is extremely funny as the audience is introduced to the family and evolving storylines. Aging grand-dad and proud socialist (Les Asmussen) seems to be the person keeping the family unit together, as he circumnavigates the problems and arguments which arise. As initially expected, he provides much of the laughter.
However, the comedic aspect of the play is clouded in the second half, as the storyline of the marriage breakdown between Eugene’s parents (Brett Heath and Suzann James) is resolved. The pace heightens and an explosion of emotions which erupt on stage is an unsettling contrast to the relatively placid mood of the first half and showcases the universal problems which families experienced and continue to do so, behind closed doors.
The stylish recreation of the post-war era living rooms and meticulous detail to costumes and hairstyles compounds to the perplexing feeling that audiences may have been transported to a bygone era.
This excellent production of Simon’s remarkable hit Broadway Bound is a must-see for discerning audiences who demand quality and intellect in their theatre-going experiences. A great tribute to the late Neil Simon. (MMo)
Until Dec 15. New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown. $20-$35+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.newtheatre.org.au