This Week in Theater
By Rose Desena
Eugene and Stanley are brothers who share big dreams. They want to write for TV back in the days when most folks don’t even own one, their fresh enthusiastic personalities unscathed by the harshness of the industry we know today. Long nights at the desk pounding away on typewriters without spell check or script programs. It was a time when getting a job in a studio mail room or a meeting with a producer really meant something. After all, that is how writer Neil Simon started. “Broadway Bound’ is very much his story. Simon grew up in NYC in a household very like the one portrayed in Broadway Bound. The script is the last part of a three-part trilogy, coming after Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues. All three scripts were hesitantly written with no preconceived notion of success by Simon. However, to Simon’s surprise, all shared healthy runs on Broadway and went on to become films.
Kate (Gina Hecht) is a full-time mother, raising two boys and taking care of an aging farther without question. She dedicates her life to cooking and household chores as if it’s her calling. Occasionally she looks back at a time in her life when she was truly happy and things were simple. Her sister Blanche (Betsy Zajko) lives a life of privilege and acts more like the antagonist then a helpful sibling, although she means well. Kate is just not that flexible and tends to shun her sister’s suggestions. Kate’s husband Jack (Michael Mantell) is emotionally and, most of the time, physically absent, wrapping himself up in work rather than dealing with the truth. Stanley (Noah James), her older son, is the kind of sharp crisp character that I love. His confidence is unstoppable, and his cockiness adds just the right ingredient to win the audience over, particularly, if you see a little of yourself in him. His brother Eugene (Ian Alda) is much more conservative, quiet and less ambitious. He is the perfect balance that rounds out the script. These two men square off from time to time and have difficulty accepting the position their parents have so easily adjusted to. Nevertheless, their affection for one another is relentless and keeps them together.
Broadway Bound is a charming story of commitment, acceptance, memories and hope as we look a family that struggles to stay on track. Mom just wants to share a family meal at the table, Dad wants out of the marriage, the boys need fame and Grandpa, a die-hard socialist, secretly dreams about living among the capitalists in sunny Florida. Oy! Allan Miller is delightful as Grandpa. He previously played the role in La Mirada last year, and he was supposed to co-star on Broadway in a production of the play that never opened. I am sure he is delighted to have a third chance. He is adorable.
The production is flawless under the direction of Jason Alexander, who was very familiar with the script: he created the character of Stanley in the original Broadway production. He moves the talented cast around a gorgeous stage set with ease and allows each cast member to fall into a place naturally. The pacing is excellent, and the words pour out with rapid fire and commitment.
The Odyssey rarely disappoints and this is no exception. I know Ron Sossi (Artistic Director) has a fond affection for the classic playwright, and Simon is a master of the craft. Broadway Bound is memorable and upbeat, a play the whole family can enjoy. I left the theater happy, satisfied and grateful that we have such darn good theater in LA LA land. This will be a hot ticket, so I wouldn’t wait. Ticket details below. In addition, read my Q and A with Allan Miller.
“IT’S A MUST SEE”
Written: by Neil Simon
Directed: Jason Alexander
Cast: Ian Alda, Gina Hecht, Noah James, Michael Mantell, Allan Miller, Betsy Zajko.
Runs: Wednesday to Saturday @ 8pm and Sunday @ 2 pm with some exceptions, so check site.
Odyssey Theater, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. LA, CA. 90025
www.Odysseytheater.com 310 477 2055