Broadway Bound takes up the tale of Eugene Jerome, Neil Simon’s fictional doppelganger, Simon mined his own early life for the material for the three stories of Eugene: Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound. This time the war is over and Eugene is back at home, working at night writing comedy with his brother, in the hopes of working for one of the major networks.
Suzann James as matriarch Kate Jerome is a dervish of domestic duty, coming in and out of the kitchen with revolving door frequency to check on the state of the pot roast. She is a woman who, as her father observes, needs someone to serve, in spite of her outward frustration with her family. Serving her family has been her life’s work, James conveys Kate’s brittle edge in a poignant performance.
Patrick Holman as the irrepressible Eugene is immensely likeable whether struggling with his parent’s relationship or considering the perfect joke. Holman’s patience knows no bounds as Eugene explains to his erstwhile socialist grandfather the point of the perfect comedy skit. For a young Aussie actor, Holman takes on the tale of the Jewish American Eugene with apparent ease, with only a smidge of awkwardness in one or two asides to the audience.
Set design took us into the modest home that Kate won’t countenance leaving, though her sister Blanche does try. She is intent on moving the family on, be it to Park Ave like herself, or Florida for sunshine all year, though she faces much opposition in this endeavour.
The action is slow in the first half, with energy kicking in when brothers Eugene and Stanley get excited about their writing project. The first and second half are precisely the same length, giving a sense of balance, unfortunately it is a balance of a few long, bordering on tedious scenes in each act. Broadway Bound is arguably the weakest link in Simon’s Eugene trilogy, with writing that is not nearly the laugh riot of its predecessors.
Hopefully some stilted performances were just the result of opening night nerves, and the cast have some fun with this play once they subside. On until 15 Dec, Broadway Bound is the final show in the calendar from the New Theatre this year, for more information and tickets see: https://newtheatre.org.au/
Director: Rosane McNamara
Featuring: Suzann James, Les Asmussen, Patrick Holman, Simon Lee, Susan Jordan. Brett Heath, Nick Curnow and Jesse Shore.
above image by Chris Lundie