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Release: Immediate

Iowa Summer Rep '97 Neil Simon festival opens with 'Broadway Bound'

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Iowa Summer Rep '97 festival of comedies by Neil Simon will open with "Broadway Bound" at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 25, in the David L. Thayer Theatre (formerly Theatre A) of the University of Iowa Theatre Building.

Additional performances of "Broadway Bound" will be at 8 p.m. June 26-28, and July 1, 5, 6, 8 and 16; and at 2 p.m. June 28 and July 13.

"Broadway Bound" is the final play in Simon's "B-B" trilogy, which also included "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and "Biloxi Blues." These were the plays that, in the 1980s, convinced many theater-watchers that Simon -- already the most popular American playwright of his time -- was more than a facile joke-teller. These frankly autobiographical plays combine Simon's trademark humor with serious and complex dramatic issues.

In "Broadway Bound" Simon's Jerome brothers, Eugene and Stanley, prepare with a combination of excitement and trepidation to plunge into the world of comedy writing. But as the two young men grow into maturity and begin to find their course in life, their family is in turmoil as their parents' marriage begins to disintegrate.

Time magazine proclaimed "Broadway Bound" "the best American play of the '80s" and "the work of a master craftsman, at once literary and heartfelt, shaped with becoming modesty."

"This is a remarkably beautiful play," director Sandra Cavanaugh says. "It's not the kind of comedy we expect from Neil Simon; in fact, it's really not a comedy at all. I would call it a touching drama that is laced with great humor and great humanity."

"The amazing thing about this play is that we have all been there. Every child has a moment when they see their parents as just people for the first time. Every parent has a moment when their baby is not a baby any more. And every man and woman faces growing up, growing old and the potential of not being satisfied with the choices they've made in life once it's too late to change."

The play clearly meant something special, and not altogether comfortable to Simon, whose parents' strife was the raw material of the script. As a Time magazine cover story described it, "At the opening night of the preview run in Washington, (Simon) collapsed with what appeared to be a heart attack. The seizure was later diagnosed as a gastric disturbance and a bad case of jitters. Says he: 'This was the easiest play of mine to write but the most difficult to watch.'"

Simon is the most commercially successful American playwright of the 20th century and one of the century's most popular writers of any kind -- a comic hit-maker whose work has been seen not only on Broadway but in a series of feature films. He is the only living playwright for whom a Broadway theater has been named.

The broad appeal of scripts including "Barefoot in the Park," "Plaza Suite," "The Odd Couple," "Sweet Charity" and "The Sunshine Boys" have made Simon a staple not only in professional theaters, but also in schools and community theaters throughout the country. Simon has reached mass audiences through numerous film versions of his plays as well as made-for-cinema originals including "The Goodbye Girl," "Murder By Death" and "The Cheap Detective." His writing also inspired the long-running "Odd Couple" TV series.

Beginning with the "B-B" trilogy, Simon finally shed a reputation as merely a Gagman Laureate to achieve recognition as a playwright of intelligence, depth and humanity. In 1995 he won the Pulitzer Prize, a litmus test for serious playwriting, for "Lost in Younkers."

Other artistic contributors to the Iowa Summer Rep production of "Broadway Bound" are set designer Alison Ford, costume designer Nava Fahimy, lighting designer Bryon Winn and sound designer Mark Bruckner.

Tickets for "Broadway Bound" are $15 ($8 for UI students, senior citizens and young people 17 and younger). Tickets may be purchased in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performances will be available an hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

"Broadway Bound" tickets are also available at a discount of more than 20 percent as part of an Iowa Summer Rep subscription package. The other Neil Simon shows in the series are "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" and "God's Favorite." Subscription packages are $35 ($20 for UI students, senior citizens and young people 17 and younger).

Hancher box office summer hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. The box office will be closed July 4. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Before each evening performance, from 6:30 p.m. to curtain time, Iowa Summer Rep offers outdoor dining on the Theatre Building patio, overlooking the Iowa River. This season, in harmony with the New York Jewish milieu of Simon's plays, the IMU catering service will become Bubby's Deli, featuring family-favorite recipes of IMU Chef Barry Greenberg. The dinner menu includes authentic New York deli meats, bagels and lox, and New York cheesecake.

Reservations for Bubby's Deli are not required, but on weekends reservations are recommended. Reservations may be made by calling 319-335-3105.

The University of Iowa Community Credit Union is the corporate sponsor of Iowa Summer Rep.