The first show of the 83rd season at Lakewood Playhouse. Did it live up to the hype?
After being closed for over 500 days due to COVID-19, Lakewood Playhouse finally reopened their doors to the world of live theater. Many seasoned theater goers know of this small, semi-hidden theater and are aware of its value to the community.
Lakewood Playhouse entered its 83rd season this year and released their season lineup with some pretty big names such as “The Haunting of Hill House” and “Ragtime.” However, the first show of the season was not one I was familiar with.
Neil Simon’s “Broadway Bound” caught my attention merely because of the title. Going in, I thought it was going to be about an aspiring actor wanting to eventually end up on Broadway. When I actually attended the show, I was met with some interesting and confusing twists.
Neil Simon wrote “Broadway Bound” as a semi-autobiographical play. It was also the third and final installment of a trilogy revolving around the main character, Eugene Morris Jerome.
The show itself is about Eugene and his brother Stanley who are aspiring comedy writers and are aiming for the big leagues. Eventually, the two of them get a job offer with CBS to co-write a sketch for the CBS radio show. Once broadcasting day comes around, Eugene, Stanley, and their whole family gather around the radio to hear their first story. While Eugene and Stanley were excited and proud of their work, their family had other thoughts.
The Jerome family was your definition of your average, yet dysfunctional family. The mother and father of the house, Kate and Jack, are having marital issues. Kate’s father, Ben, is living with them and you can tell the character’s mind is slowly deteriorating. Eugene and Stanley both have their own jobs but still live at home. They share that all too familiar brotherly bond of wanting to work together but their relationship gets in the way.
At this time, the brothers were discussing their job offer with CBS for sketch writing, and it felt like the plot was a little shaky. Once again, I was under the impression that it was about an aspiring actor so I had to switch gears a bit to follow the plot.
This was by no means any fault of the actors. The cast was an amazing ensemble of people who were doing their best with what they had. Charlie Stevens (Eugene) and Chap Wolff (Stanley) did a phenomenal job portraying the sibling relationship on stage from the bickering to the poking at each other’s flaws, they absolutely nailed it.
Another stage relationship to highlight was the father-daughter relationship portrayed by Dave Hall (Ben) and Pamela Roza (Kate). It truly felt like you were watching a daughter help her father in his older years and the voice of reason coming from Roza was all too familiar. Lastly, Roza and her stage chemistry with W. Scott Pinkston (Jack) and their dwindling marriage. It was so very apparent their marriage was holding on by a thread and that thread was one that many other families stay married for: their kids.
The acting and design of this show was absolutely beautiful. Stage design is like a separate science of itself and the talent of these designers was through the roof. The set was very dollhouse-like with the ability to see every room of importance in the house. Bedrooms were separated by a wall to add a little realism and they were noticeably right above the kitchen. Multi-story sets are never an easy build but the design crew did great.
The only downside I saw in this show was the writing. From the deceiving title to the less than stellar script, it was a little difficult to follow and felt a bit slow, however, it was the third installment in a trilogy. Some plot points did get a little lost in the dialogue, like where the show took place, so the audience was left to figure some of it out themselves. Overall, I’d definitely say it was a solid season opener since that is just usually how those first shows tend to be.
While “Broadway Bound” might be over, Lakewood Playhouse still has several exciting titles coming up such as the ones mentioned above. To find more information about the theater or future shows and events, go to their website https://www.lakewoodplayhouse.org/ or their social media.
Facebook: Lakewood Playhouse