The “Eugene Trilogy” Grows Up

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Neil Simon’s three semi-autobiographical plays, often referred to as the “Eugene Trilogy,” follow young Eugene Jerome from his comic adolescence in Brighton Beach Memoirs to his stint in the army in Biloxi Blues, and finally, to his breaking into show biz in Broadway Bound.

With the strength of Simon’s writing and character development, audiences do not have to have seen the other two plays to appreciate and enjoy Broadway Bound. Simon’s ability to weave comedy and pathos closely together, as in the other two plays in the trilogy, is on full display here.

The play opened in 1986 and ran for nearly two years on Broadway with Linda Lavin, John Randolph, Jonathan Silverman, and Jason Alexander playing the leads. It was nominated for four Tonies and won two, one for Lavin and one for Randolph. The play was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

logo_1249566521Frank Rich, formerly the theater critic for the New York Times, said of its original Broadway production, “Broadway Bound contains some of its author’s most accomplished writing to date – passages that dramatize the timeless, unresolvable bloodlettings of familial existence as well as the humorous conflicts one expects.”

Broadway Bound is the story of the now grownup Eugene and his brother Stanley who are still living at home with their father, mother, and grandfather in their Brighton Beach neighborhood. The two become radio comedy writers, amidst the breakup of their parents on the home front. The brothers’ two worlds meld when they start to write thinly veiled radio sketches of their family and home life.

Director Lawrene Lee (Taken by Todd H Photos)

Director Lawrene Lee (Taken by Todd H Photos)

Lawrence Lee, who has directed Game Show and Good People at the Underground, is making his Playhouse main stage directorial debut with this show. Lee says, “Simon writes about characters that feel completely believable with all of the contradictions of real people. Broadway Bound is a gentle comedy about a family in the midst of big changes.”

The Playhouse cast features Tim Komatsu, Andy Roemhildt, Christine Winkler Johnson, John Schmidt, Jack Starr, Sara Marie Sorenson, David Orman, and Chris Nollet. Lee notes, “I am enjoying the opportunity to work with a small, very talented cast in crafting a great story with wonderful characters.”

Lee adds, “There’s a lot of hand wringing about people being distracted by technology and not connecting with each other. This is not a new problem. This play, set in 1949, has the battle between the radio and the family dinner table at its very core. I hope that the audience can spend a couple hours, without their cell phones, and enjoy the twists and turns of this very funny and yet completely normal family.”

Article written by Sheryl Jensen

GET TICKETS

What: Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound
When: February 18-28, 2016
Performances: Thursday-Saturday @ 7:30pm | Sundays @ 2:00pm
Where: The Duluth Playhouse (506 W. Michigan St)
Tickets: Purchase online or call 218.733.7555
Ticket Prices: Adults – $27 | Youth/Students – $20 | Groups (15+) – $23

This article originally appeared in Volume 57, No.3 issue of the Duluth Playhouse newsletter, The Callboard.

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