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THEATER REVIEWS: Old Globe double-dips with Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “Broadway Bound”

SAN DIEGO -- The development and family life of an aspiring writer are explored in a Neil Simon double-header at the Old Globe Theatre through Nov. 7.

“Brighton Beach Memoirs,” and “Broadway Bound” are two plays in Neil Simon’s “Eugene Trilogy,” a semi-autobiographical trio set in three different decades. (The third is “Biloxi Blues.”)

The Old Globe, with the success of last season’s “Lost In Yonkers” under its belt, signed that show’s director, Scott Schwartz, to direct the double-header. They play in repertory through November 7.

”Brighton Beach Memoirs”

“Brighton Beach Memoirs” presents a house with too many people and a family with too little money trying to survive in an economy recovering from the Great Depression. Each member of the family has a crisis while the world outside edges ever closer to all-out war.

Local standout Austyn Myers plays the Simon stand-in,14-year-old Eugene Jerome, acting as narrator/Greek chorus when he’s not assiduously recording family and personal events in his diary.

It’s 1937, and father Jack (David Bishins) works hard – as a fabric cutter by day and noisemaker seller at night – to keep food on the table. Eugene’s 18-year-old brother Stanley (Sloan Grenz) works in a factory.

Eugene’s mother Kate (Karen Ziemba) keeps the house together and tries to make the place seem big enough for her family and that of widowed sister Blanche Morton (Bonnie Black) and daughters Laurie (Julia Vanderwiel) and Nora (Allie Trimm), who moved in when Blanche’s husband died.

Eugene is a good boy – a baseball nut, enthusiastic and energetic. He has also recently become aware of girls, the source of more than a few funny lines. But what he wants most is to become a writer.

“Brighton Beach Memoirs” is mostly upbeat and often amusing despite the (conveniently resolved) crises; Simon is good at illustrating the perils of puberty and the rocky transition to adulthood, and Myers is a real find in the role.

“Broadway Bound”

“Broadway Bound” takes place in 1949, as Eugene (Brandon Uranowitz) and Stan (Joseph Parks) head to New York to become comedy writers.

They’ve left their philandering father Jack to try to work things out with mom Kate; Aunt Blanche (Black), who has now become wealthy; and Kate’s Trotskyite father Ben (wonderfully played by Howard Green, a wonder of comic timing).

The boys find radio a good outlet for their talents, but learn about the dangers of using autobiographical material in a comedy skit.
The most affecting scene is one in which Eugene comes home – his parents’ marriage is in peril, but a late-night dance with his mother buoys her spirits and reminds her of that night so many years ago when she danced with George Raft.

The Old Globe has an engaging pair of plays here, well designed, directed and acted.

The details

“Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “Broadway Bound”play in repertory through Nov. 7 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday at 7 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; matinees Saturday at 2 and Sunday at 1 p.m.

For tickets, call (619) 234-5623 or visit www.theoldglobe.org.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.