Out of domestic tragedy, comedy sketches are born.
That's "Broadway Bound" in a nutshell, the bittersweet Neil Simon comedy currently enjoying a winning production by the Laguna Playhouse. The trick of the play is in orchestrating the tragic and comic strains to create a single melody in counterpoint. And director Jerry Evans pulls it off most of the time. Though the initial scenes feel forced for humor or mired in pathos, the second act is as smooth and sweet and bracing as the cup of honeyed tea Mama Kate concocts for her flu-sick boy, Eugene. And when mother and son dance together to the strains of Kate's girlhood glory, director Evans' sure hand guides them gracefully around the sentimental pitfalls of Simon's confessional portrait of the Jerome family. The performances throughout are solid and at times inspired. The gem of the evening is Harper Roisman as Grandpa Ben. His face is so expressive, his delivery so dry and consummately timed, his character seems to have grown organically from the soil of Simon's script. Stubborn, opinionated, funny and honest, Roisman's Ben is rather like New York itself: He's a delight to visit, but you wouldn't want to live with him.
As Eugene, David Kaufman is bright-eyed and knowing, with a pointed wit born of love and a determination to survive laughing. He handles the asides to the audience adroitly, and though commenting on events from a future perspective, his wisdom never deflates his boyishness.