REVIEW: BROADWAY BOUND at Miners Alley in Golden
by Devon James
While leaving the performance, I heard an audience member say, “There were some wonderful truths in that play.” Somehow this simple statement seemed to sum up what I love so much about the work of Neil Simon. “Truths” are his strong suit and inevitably one of the major challenges of his work.
BROADWAY BOUND is the last chapter in Neil Simon’s “Eugene Trilogy”, preceded by BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS and BILOXI BLUES. Lisa DeCaro, the Board of Directors President and wife of Artistic/Executive Director, Len Matheo said, “If you do the first two, you HAVE to do the third.” I have certainly got the sense that their Patrons feel the same, and are somewhat saddened to see it complete. Although, they all very much live on their own, combining them in this way allows those who have committed to the trilogy a much deeper understanding of what Simon has created. Director, Kate Gleason is the perfect choice for this venue and this kind of work. Kate has a strong eye for details and for the humanity of every piece she touches. As a professional actor herself, she understands process and knows how to navigate her actors. Therefore, this extended incite to the craft gives her a wonderful ability to pull more from the talent she directs. Combined with the scenic design skills of Peggy Stenmark, the elaborate touches of Elizabeth Scott-McKean, the beautiful lighting of Vance McKenzie, and the incredible costume design/finds of Crystal McKenzie, this Production team created a visually stunning and complete theatrical world. I am always in “awe’ of their ability to transform this very limited space.
As the cast fills the stage, the family dynamic begins to blossom and we are met with a very similar taste from the previous productions in this trilogy. Both Cindy Laudadio-Hill (Kate) and Tim Fishbaugh (Ben) set the tone with a truly vulnerable moment between a grown daughter and her aging father. Tim’s interpretation of the disgruntled communist was a nice anchor, but in times a bit too weighted, making it hard to land the lighter moments between his character and Eugene’s. Yet, the scene with youngest daughter, Blanche (Jacqueline Garcia) offered a glimpse of genuine love and purpose for his character. Cindy has a lovely way of finding her journey through character. I believed this was her environment. Her strength was beautifully stoic. However, I will say that the intimacy of this space is both a blessing and a curse. As performers, we can afford to dial down our volume, but the honesty must be dialed in at 110%. There were major moments for Kate’s character that I craved more from. I wanted to feel the mixed emotions of a young Jewish woman in her George Raft glory days coming to terms with the women she is today. I wanted to see all the cracks of a failing 33 year marriage to her husband Jack (Rory Pierce), and stop myself from picking up the pieces. On the surface, we can feel the distance between their characters, but I missed the layers of the palpable inner struggle of a man who is making a decision to leave his entire family for another woman. The marriage felt stagnantly complacent without the festering reality of all the given circumstances. However, I loved the parental relationships with the boys. I couldn’t imagine a better casting of “Stan” played by James O’Hagen Murphy. James brought so much energy to an otherwise slower moving ride. Julian Vendura is a new face to Miner’s Alley, and potentially a John Hauser (Eugene-BILOXI BLUES) doppelganger-both in looks and theatrical style. Vendura’s connection to the audience felt easy and unforced. I thought he made seamless and fluidic transitions between our world and that of the play, which can pose as a great challenge for many actors. His relationships within his family were developed, individualized, and overall he moved us through the show with a nice balance of urgency and care for the moments. What I missed was the investment in his pending relationship. We hear so much about this woman, but I never got the sense there were genuine feelings propelling him forward. This left me without investment in the final moments of the play.
The layers of this work are challenging. Telling the truth involves so much. This particular production has hit many, and scratched the surface of other moments. However, the heart of the cast as a whole is alive and beating on the stage. It is hard not to love a production at Miner’s Alley. They go above and beyond to make the environment comfortable and inviting for their patrons. There, the management team serves the drinks and makes YOU – the patron, staff, performer, or production team member part of their family. This is one of the most intimate spaces you will find in the Denver area, making it a very unique theatre experience for all involved.
Miners Alley Playhouse is fascinating audiences with BROADWAY BOUND playing now through August 20th in Golden. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30p.m; Sundays at 1:00p.m.; Sundays July 23 & 30 and Aug 6 & 13 at 6 p.m. For tickets or more information, contact Miners Alley by calling 303-935-3044 or online at www.minersalley.com. Miners Alley Playhouse is located at 1224 Washington Avenue in Golden, CO.
Photo Credit: Sarah Roshan Photography