ST. JOSEPH PLAYERS OF YUCCA VALLEY PRESENT NEIL SIMON’S “BROADWAY BOUND”

Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

Neil Simon was the King of comedy playwrights during the 1960’s through the 1980’s He has written over thirty Broadway hits with three plays on the ‘great white way’ simultaneously. No other playwright has ever broken that record.

Simon wrote mainly comedies. But he always infused his plays with some form of drama because drama is the stuff of life’s experiences. Remember life isn’t always a bowl of cherries, nor is it a never ending series of “Father Knows Best” shows either. However, with Simon, most endings were usually upbeat.

Director Rebecca Havely with the three actors who have played the role of Eugene Jerome in Niel Simon's Eugene trilogy. From left Jericho McWilliams, Vincent Thomas and Trevor Carpenter.

Director Rebecca Havely with the three actors who have played the role of Eugene Jerome in Niel Simon’s Eugene trilogy. From left Jericho McWilliams, Vincent Thomas and Trevor Carpenter.

In the St. Joseph Players current production of “Broadway Bound”, the third play in what is considered Simon’s semi- autobiographical ‘Eugene trilogy’ involving the fictitious Jerome family. The other two plays are “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “Biloxi Blues”. In “Broadway Bound”, however, he gives the audience a little more drama than they’re used to seeing in his plays.

The story of the Jerome family of Brighton Beach, New York are beginning to feel the pressure of the father Jack Jerome’s infidelity along with the strain of three generations living in close quarters amid the remnants of the great depression. With the impending winds of WW II beginning to rumble, it’s Kate, the mother of the Jerome family who is compelled to take charge of the household, along with her two sons Stanley and Eugene, who are just beginning to make their way in show business. And then there is the coping with her aging, live-in father Ben. There is a lot on Kate’s plate to deal with.

Nicely directed by Rebecca Havely (who also plays the mother, Kate Jerome) “Broadway Bound” features familiar faces of actors seen in earlier St. Joseph plays as well as those seen in other hi-desert theatre productions.

Vincent Thomas who plays Eugene Jerome, gets stronger each time he plays Simon’s alter-ego. He portrayed him in “Brighton Beach Memoirs” in last season’s production at St. Joseph. This time, Thomas plays a more mature Eugene who joins with older brother Stanley (Cyrus Short) to form a fledgling comedy-writing team trying to sell their scripts to CBS Radio. Jack Jerome as their father is solidly played by Howie Cohen, whose detachment from his sons comes too late to repair the gap, as does his relationship with Kate. Bob Noble as Kate’s father Ben, is a warm and wise grandpa figure that provides the humor in Simon’s family dramedy. Shelly Scheckler plays Aunt Blanche, Kate’s Park Avenue-residing sister.

Samuel Havely designed and built the clever and functional three room set that is lighted by Wye Davis. Sharon Noble’s costumes provide the proper period look of the late 1930’s and 40’s. The production is stage managed by Brianna Sears.

“Broadway Bound” runs from May 14 through June 5, 2016. For reservations and ticket information, call the box office at 760-362-9319.

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