Broadway Bound by Neil Simon--A Precious Gem at Masquer's

Kate (Marilyn Hughes, left) dances with her son Eugene (Zac Schuman) in The Masquer's Playhouse production of Neil Simon's Broadway Bound.

Phoebe Moyer has directed a beautiful and sensitive production of Broadway Bound which opened last weekend at the Masquer's Playhouse which runs through February 25.

The origins of Neil Simon's comic sensibilities are revealed in his semi-autobiographical trilogy; Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), Biloxi Blues (1985) and Broadway Bound (1987).

The setting of Broadway Bound is the Jerome household, Brighton Beach, 1949.  Eugene (Zac Schuman), the protagonist and Simon's alter-ego, and his brother Stanley (Chris Dewey) have begun writing comedy sketches for the Catskill's resorts hoping this activity will be the first step on the fame and fortune.  As they seek out funny material, the boy's home life rapidly disintegrates.  The crisis at hand includes their parent's constant quarreling (brought about by their father's philandering) and a seemingly insurmountable dilemma involving their aged grandfather.  

Director Phoebe Moyer skillfully guides her talented cast in this fine, Masquer's production.  Her ensemble works well off each other and each one offers a carefully etched characterization.  

Eugene acts as narrator, speaking directly to the audience and filling us in on the details. Zac Schum an is engaging as the glib Eugene who has a clear comeback for any situation. As Stan, Chris Dewey becomes his character completely. The two actors play well off each other in their lively, brotherly exchanges.  

Marilyn Hughes has the challenging role of Kate Jerome, who is about 50 years old and graying.  She is the mother of Eugene and Stanley Jerome and the wife of Jack Jerome (Timothy Beagley).  After 33 years of marriage, she confronts Jack with his extra-marital affair; they do not speak to each other afterward.  Shortly after the radio broadcast of a show written by her sons, Kate shows her son Eugene how she once danced with George Raft which is a dramatic highlight of the play.  Kate is a survivor and Marilyn Hughes convincingly conveys her character's inner strength. Timothy Beagley gives a low-key portrayal of Jack, as a man who has been beaten down by the demands of his restrictive life.  

Avi Jacobson is amusing as Ben, the crusty grandfather, a rabid Socialist who disapproves of his daughter, Blanche's Park Avenue lifestyle.  Georgie Craig as Blanche shares a poignant scene with her father Ben who refuses to accept her financial help.  

The realistic two level set by Phoebe Moyer and the lighting by Jon Gourdine enhance the production as does the sound effects by Billie Cox which makes this a rich listening experience especially for those fond of old-time radio drama.  The period costumes by Marjorie Moore are both realistic and authentic.  

Brother Stan points out that characters wanting something with an obstacle preventing them from getting it equals comedy.  Broadway Bound shows that the comedy can often be bittersweet.

This warm comedy plays weekends January 20-February 25 at the Masquer's Playhouse in Point Richmond.  Performances are Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. on January 29 and February 5.  Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 510-232-4031.  The Playhouse is located off Highway 580 (Richmond Parkway) at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond across from the Hotel Mac.  

Coming up next in the Masquer's 2012 season will be The Real Inspector Hound and The 15 Minute Hamlet by Tom Stoppard and directed by Steve Hill from March 23-April 28.  

Flora Lynn Isaacson