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Pegasus Players’ ‘Broadway Bound’ reintroduces audiences to lovable character based on playwright Neil Simon



Pictured from left are Gary Saipe (Jack), Benjamin Montague (Eugene), Scott Aiello (Stan), James Tellier (Ben) and Franette Liebow (Kate) in a scene from "Broadway Bound."

By CINDY SHER
Associate Managing Editor


Pegasus Players’ ‘Broadway Bound’ reintroduces audiences to lovable character based on playwright Neil Simon

Broadway Bound is the least known play of prolific Jewish playwright Neil Simon’s trio of comical semi-autobiographical dramas. The 1986 Broadway play was transformed into a television movie almost a decade ago, but it never became a famous feature film like Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues, the two other plays loosely based on Simon’s life.

Broadway Bound, though, may now become more recognizable to Chicago area theatergoers as the play hits the Chicago stage at Pegasus Players on 1145 West Wilson, playing now through Dec. 21. In celebration of its 25th Silver Anniversary season this year, Pegasus Players is producing a string of its past hits including Broadway Bound. The play made its Midwest premiere at the theater a decade ago.

Brighton Beach Memoirs first introduced audiences to the lovable Eugene Jerome. In the sweet coming-of-age story, Eugene whose twin loves include girls and baseball grows up in the Coney Island area of Brighton Beach in 1937 with his parents, brother, aunt, and cousins. The adolescent boy is caught between experiencing the usual growing pains of life in a house cramped with too many family members, and the pre-war instability overseas that his family hears about while gathered around the radio.

Next, Eugene enters army training during World War II in Biloxi Blues. He’s not fond of army life, and his disillusionment is made worse by his harsh sergeant. Eugene has three goals for his time in the military to get out alive, to lose his virginity, and to fall in love.

In the living room drama of Broadway Bound, Eugene finally comes of age. By [this play], Gene is a young man, forced to make adult decisions. The wonderful thing is they don’t harden him. Gene never loses his boyish charm and his fun and innocence, but while hanging onto that, he does need to make decisions, explains Alex Levy, associate artistic director of Pegasus Players and director of the play. “It’s fun to see how he relates to his family differently from ‘Brighton Beach’ to ‘Broadway Bound.’

    Benjamin Montague plays Eugene in the production. Montague says he finds similarities with his alter ego relating to their professional lives. Eugene’s a guy who is right in the prime of everything exciting. He’s in love and he’s getting a chance at a career that’s impossible to get into, he says.

In the play, Eugene and his older brother, Stanley, achieve their lifelong dream of breaking into showbiz as a comedy-writing duo for radio. Simultaneously, they cope with the breakup of their parents. They find a goldmine of material for their comedy act within the walls of their dysfunctional home, a discovery the rest of their family is less than thrilled about. The young men’s success, it seems, directly correlates with the disintegration of their family life.

The play wrestles with striking that delicate balance between work and family. In Simon’s writing, we all see our own lives and our own families, says Levy. There is this question of when to spread your wings and not leave your family behind, but to move away from your family and set out on your own independence.

Like most Simon plays, Broadway Bound is steeped in Jewish tradition, rich with Jewish sensibility. In the real-life ongoing script of the Jewish people, laughter and tears play central characters. Here, too, the secret to the play is a mixture of these two elements, according to Montague and as in most good stories you can’t have one without the other. Every great play makes you laugh and cry at the same time, he says. In the [plays] that affect me greatly, I will be laughing throughout and then I get thrown a curve ball and I go, ‘Oh my God, that’s really touching.’

For tickets to Broadway Bound, please call Pegasus Players (773) 878-9761.


Posted: 11/10/2003

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