The play is about Eugene and his older brother, Stanley, dealing with their parents' relationship falling apart as the brothers work together toward being comedy writers for the radio, and, eventually, television. They discover that their father, Jack, has been cheating on their mother, Kate. It is obvious to the family before Jack even admits it, and they try to find ways for Kate to cope with the loss when Jack may eventually leave. Jack reveals that the woman he has been seeing is dying.
When Eugene and Stanley find a job where they can write short comedic skits for the radio, they obscurely make fun of their own family. Jack can hear the similarities between the fictional family in the broadcast and their own family, and becomes outraged. He gets into a major argument with Stanley, which turns into an argument about Jack's affair. Later, Kate holds a nostalgic conversation with Eugene, revealing how she had tried to win his father's heart when she was younger.
Eventually, Jack leaves. Stanley and Eugene move out when they get the great offers for which they'd hoped. Kate remains in the house with her father, Ben (an elderly Jewish man with socialist leanings who provides the play with most of its warmth and humor), until Ben goes to follow his wife to Miami.
The play opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on December 4, 1986 and closed on September 25, 1988 after 756 performances. Produced by Emanuel Azenberg and directed by Gene Saks, the cast starred Linda Lavin as Kate, Jonathan Silverman as Eugene, Jason Alexander as Stanley, Phyllis Newman as Blanche and John Randolph as Jack. Joan Rivers took over the role of Kate for the play's final months on Broadway.
The play received four Tony Award nominations, including Best Play, Linda Lavin (Lead Actress, Play), Phyllis Newman (Featured Actress, Play), and John Randolph (Featured Actor, Play). Linda Lavin won as Best Actress in a Play and John Randolph won as Best Featured Actor in a Play. It received four nominations for the Drama Desk Award, with Lavin and Randolph winning.
A Broadway revival, directed by David Cromer, was scheduled to open in November 2009 (previews) at the Nederlander Theatre, running in repertory with Brighton Beach Memoirs. The announced cast included Laurie Metcalf as Kate Jerome, Dennis Boutsikaris as Jack Jerome, Santino Fontana as Stanley Jerome, Jessica Hecht as Blanche, Josh Grisetti as Eugene Jerome and Allan Miller as Ben. However, Brighton Beach Memoirs closed on November 1, 2009 due to weak ticket sales and the planned production of Broadway Bound was canceled.
Broadway Bound was adapted into a television movie in 1992. The film was directed by Paul Bogart with the screenplay written by Neil Simon. The cast starred Anne Bancroft (Kate), Hume Cronyn (Ben), Jerry Orbach (Jack), Jonathan Silverman (Stan) and Corey Parker (Eugene). Cronyn won a 1992 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his role in the film.
Frank Rich, in his review for The New York Times wrote: " Broadway Bound contains some of its author's most accomplished writing to date – passages that dramatize the timeless, unresolvable bloodlettings of familial existence as well as the humorous conflicts one expects. But the seamless merging of laughter, character and emotion that ignited Biloxi Blues is only intermittently achieved here. There are stretches, especially in Act I, when Broadway Bound isn't funny or moving but just reportorial and expository, with plot twists and thematic invocations piling up undigested, like the heavier courses at an attenuated Passover seder."
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- "'Broadway Bound' to Close" The New York Times (abstract), September 20, 1988
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