Neil Simon may be one of the most prolific comedy writers in Broadway history, but he also knows how to tug at your heartstrings.
In "Broadway Bound," opening Thursday at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham, Simon once again mixes hilarity with heartbreak in the last chapter of his semi-autobiographical Eugene Trilogy from 1986.
"The play is loaded with comedy, but it has those touching moments of pain and anger that we see in any family dynamic," said Cindy Bates, who is directing the Curtain Call production, which runs through Sept. 28. "I really love this script and the story that Neil Simon tells about family, careers, relationships, and the hopes and dreams inherent in each of those."
The play was nominated for four Tony Awards and won two, including Linda Lavin for Best Lead Actress and John Randolph for Best Featured Actor. Along with being nominated for a Tony for Best Play, it was also a finalist in the running for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The story follows Eugene and his brother, Stanley, a pair of comedy writers who are struggling to deal with the failing relationship of their parents.
"We see a mother loving her sons, caring for her aging father and grappling with her husband's infidelity," said Bates, "all the while trying to keep a strong sense of who she is as her own person. We see Eugene and Stanley passionately pursuing their career as comedy writers while also coming to terms with the disintegrating relationship between their parents. Each person in the play lives with a drive that is inspiring and yet humbling to witness."
Anthony Holloway (Eugene) and Sam Reilly (Stanley) play the brothers and Pam O'Connor is Kate, their mother. Also in the cast are Devra Cohen, Garry Maggio and Steven Leifer.
"The cast is terrific," said Bates. "Anthony and Sam are the two brothers who work so hard to come to up with a great sketch-comedy routine. They are funny, passionate and smart. Pam O'Connor plays Kate, the sturdy mother, wife, daughter and sister with heart and a strong sense of protecting her loved ones."
The character of Eugene is based loosely on Simon's own life. He shows up first in 1983's "Brighton Beach Memoirs," and in quick succession Simon produced "Biloxi Blues" and "Broadway Bound." According to many rankings of Simon plays, the trilogy is considered among his best works, along with "The Odd Couple," "The Sunshine Boys" and his 1991 Pulitzer Prize winner "Lost In Yonkers."
Curtain Call founder and artistic director Carol Max has produced a Simon work at her theater for four years running. In September of 2018, she mounted a production of "Biloxi Blues"; in 2017 it was "Lost In Yonkers"; and in 2015, her troupe did "Brighton Beach Memoirs."
And just last year, Max told The Gazette that the 2009 Curtain Call staging of "The Odd Couple," which was directed by Bates, was her favorite production of a Simon play ever.
'Moonlight and Magnolias'
The Theater Barn in New Lebanon closes out its 2019 summer season with a production of "Moonlight and Magnolias," opening Friday and running through Sept. 22.
Written by Ron Hutchinson and first produced in New York in 2005, the play centers on the writing of the 1939 film classic "Gone with the Wind." Based on Margaret Mitchell's highly acclaimed novel, "Gone with the Wind" required a few rewrites for the silver screen. Hutchinson's story relates how legendary producer David O. Selznick summoned both screenwriter Ben Hecht and director Victor Fleming to his office and locked the door for five days before the three men came up with a blueprint for the movie.
Sky Vogel is directing the show and the cast includes Troy native Ryan Palmer, Mark Shayne-Lydon, Michael Baldwin and Emma Simon.
Palmer, who plays Selznick, was also in "The Mousetrap" in February at Home Made Theater in Saratoga Springs.
'The Heiress' at Albany Civic
"The Heiress," a 1947 play by Americans Ruth and Augustus Goetz, will be performed by the Albany Civic Theater beginning Friday and running through Sept. 22.
Based on Henry James' 1880 novel "Washington Square," the story deals with a young woman whose father blames her for the death of her mother. The production stars Heather-Liz Copps, Rob Weber and Brian Sheldon.
The play has been revived four times on Broadway, including 1995 when it won the Tony Award for Best Revival.
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN: Opens Thursday and runs through Sept. 28; performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $25
MORE INFO: (518) 877-7529 or www.curtaincalltheatre.com
'Moonlight and Magnolias'
WHERE: The Theater Barn, 654 Route 20, New Lebanon
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Sept. 22; performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $29-$27
MORE INFO: (518) 794-8989 or www.thetheaterbarn.org
WHERE: Albany Civic Theater, 235 Second Avenue, Albany
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Sept. 22; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $18, $10 for students
MORE INFO: (518) 462-1297 or www.albanycivictheater.org