Photos – Chris Lundie
According to playwright Neil Simon, Broadway Bound started with one image in mind: his mother waxing her dining table. It was a metaphor of all she would be left in life that still needed her love and attention.
That table morphs from metaphor to symbol as Simon expands on that one image, the mother, Kate declaring:
“My grandfather made this table with his own hands. For my grandmother. Over fifty-two years she had this table. When I was a little girl I’d go to her house and she'd let me help her polish it. I didn’t know it was work. It was fun... the table you eat on means everything. It's the one time in the day the whole family is together. This is where you share things. People who eat out all the time don’t get to be a family”.
By its title, Broadway Bound sounds like a show biz rags to riches story, a struggle of page to the stage, and sure it's about siblings Stanley and Eugene wanting to make it big as sketch writers, but it's really a deeply affecting domestic drama leavened with laughter.
The third in the trilogy that began with Brighton Beach Memoirs and continued with Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound is the conclusion story of Simon's pre-adulthood and of the seismic shift that simultaneously occurred between three generations of his family. Conflict and want are the ingredients of every great play, and Broadway Bound is rife with conflict and want.
Kate, the great care giver wants to take care of her husband, Jack, sons, Stanley and Eugene, and father, Ben. But her boys are growing up, she and Jack have grown apart, and Ben is being pressured by his other daughter, Blanche, to retire to warmer climes.
Suzann James makes an impressive New Theatre debut as Kate, the embodiment of Simon's description of her through Eugene: “...I never got the feeling that Mom felt she sacrificed herself for us. Whatever she gave, she found her own private pleasure in... a hard life can sometimes knock the sentiment out of you.” Patrick Holman and Simon Lee as the brothers Eugene and Stanley are terrific in their banter, bicker and solid siblinging. Les Asmussen as Ben, the Trotsky touting grandfather plays impish impudence mixed with cuddly curmudgeon, a performance as dry as socked feet in galoshes. Brett Heath as Jack is stolidly heartbreaking, suffering with what is crudely brushed aside as the cliché of mid-life crisis, but genuinely afflicted, needing to “get away from himself and everything he was”. Susan Jordan invigorates an early vignette as Blanche, Ben's socially upwardly mobile daughter, with deft filial frustration.
Allan Walpole's detailed set is practical, functional and aesthetically convivial.
Sure, the actors' accents sometimes take the Q train jumping the Five Burroughs and even the fifty states in a fluid rather than fluent manner, but the accent of the play, its pitch and significance in its exploration of the human experience is emphatically and entertainingly attuned by director, Rosane McNamara.
New Theatre presents
by Neil Simon
Director Rosane McNamara
Venue: New Theatre | 542 King Street Newtown NSW
Dates: 13 November – 15 December 2018
Tickets: $35 – $30