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Theater review: Engaging acting drives Interplayers’ ‘Broadway Bound’

Interplayers Theatre opens its season with the touching yet funny “Broadway Bound” by Neil Simon. The production, directed by Michael Weaver, features solid performances by an engaging ensemble cast.

“Broadway Bound” is the final play in Simon’s semi-autobiographical trilogy about the Jerome family, following “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “Biloxi Blues.” In 1949, the sons – Eugene (Nich Witham) and Stanley (Dalin Tipton) – are grown men who dream of becoming comedy writers for CBS. Their parents’ marriage is hanging by a tenuous thread, and everyone in the play is separated from each other by an emotional chasm.

Witham reprises his role from last season’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” He is an astute observer who shares insights into the family, and Witham has great comic timing. The scenes between Eugene and brother Stanley are almost farcical, complete with hilarious sibling rivalry and slamming doors. The first act ends on a frantic high note.

Tipton is spot-on with his portrayal of Stanley, a young man with great passion and a reactionary nature. His vision to become a comedy writer is infectious, and he has the guts to confront his father over his poor behavior.

Samantha A. Camp also reprises her role as the boys’ mother, Kate. Years of laboring as the family’s caretaker and cook have taken their toll on her. There are many layers to Camp’s portrayal, as she displays great emotional range, from sardonic quips to moments of gravity.

Jack (Jerry Sciarrio) is an emotionally distant husband and absent father, a stark contrast from the likable man in “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” Jack’s lack of care makes him a jerk of a villain. He tries to excuse his actions as his method of “getting closer to the truth.” Sciarrio stays true to his character’s aloofness, but he could show more of the emotional complexity underneath.

Grandfather Ben, played by Gary Pierce, is estranged from his wife and living with the Jerome family. An outspoken socialist, he provides comic relief but turns absolutely serious at times. The argument between him and his rich daughter Blanche (Tamara Schupman) is compelling. All she wants is her father to reach past her fur coat and display love. “Affection doesn’t show the truth,” he responds.

“What is truth?” is the question Simon seems to pose throughout the play, as he offers the performers and audience plenty of material to ponder. “Broadway Bound” is about truth, or the ability to tell truth, and intimacy, or the toll on relationships when there’s a lack of it. Without intimacy, life is just breakfast, lunch and dinner, Eugene says.

Simon’s script strikes a bit of a flat note at the end, but the audience is left with the sense of moving on – and that’s life.

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