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Simon at his best... in "Broadway Bound"

Theatre, comedy

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Neil Simon's Broadway Bound is now in a revival run, at the Odyssey Theatre, under the artistic direction of Jason Alexander. This show is the quintessential 'coming of age - growing up Jewish in Brooklyn" story, and is a semi autobiographical account of Simon's formative years and budding career as a comedy writer. It takes place in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, 1949, and reveals all the trials and tribulations that the two brothers Eugene and Stanley Jerome (so credibly played by Ian Alda and Noah James, respectively), underwent on the ladder to fame and the 'sweet smell of success,' that they so desperately sought.

So many parodies take place in this production, as is the unique style of Simon's works. He uses his own family as a basis for so much of his material, as is cleverly shown in this story. The comedy and shtick that was so believable and universal amongst his neighbors and his own family is used in a witty comedy segment on the brothers' first radio show broadcast on CBS. When the father, Jack Jerome, played by Michael Mantell, objects to the not so subtle authenticity and apparent 'mocking,' the sons respond, "Dad, this could be any family..." They gently reason that their humor is more typical of most families just like theirs, so it's not a personal exposition but rather more general and universal. Steeped in Yiddishkeit and Brooklyn memories, this show covers all the human foibles with rich humor and nostalgia. It portrays the traditional lifestyle, where the extended family lives all together. The grandfather, Ben Epstein (Allan Miller), is stubborn, hard of hearing, yet still full of life and vitality, with compassion and family unity at his core. The glamourous aunt, Blanche Morton (Betsy Zajko), has left Brooklyn for Park Avenue, and a charmed life, yet revisits her roots often to stay connected.

The mother, Kate Jerome (played by Gina Hecht), is a doting yet distant, overprotective mother, going through an imminent divorce with her husband, Jack, who seemed to love being away from his family, more than with them, having an emotional affair with another woman, and enmeshed in his job in 'ladies raincoats.' She doesn't hesitate to bake her signature cookies and wrap them in a box, as a send-off of her two sons, with their first apartment in Manhattan.

Any work of Neil Simon's is compelling and poignant, indicative of his true genius, as one of the greatest playwrights of our time. All the more sentimental is "Broadway Bound," because of the autobiographical nature, and true life references to writing for the likes of Phil Silvers and Sid Caesar's 'Your Show of Shows.' The Simon brothers were to comedy writing what the Gershwins were to music.

Through Sept 21

Wednesdays 8PM (Aug. 20 & Sept 10); Thursdays 8PM (Sept. 4 &18); Fridays 8PM (Aug. 22,29, Sept 5, 12, 19) , Saturdays 8PM (Aug 23, 30, Sept. 6,13,20; Sundays 2PM (Aug. 24, 31, Sept. 7, 14,21).

Odyssey Theatre 2055 S Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles

(310) 477-2055 ext 2 www.odysseytheatre.com