Tricia Stiller/review | Parkland students do a fine job with Neil Simon's earliest work

Tricia Stiller/review | Parkland students do a fine job with Neil Simon's earliest work

Late last summer, we said goodbye to beloved playwright Neil Simon, who died peacefully at the age of 91. Simon is remembered as a prolific writer, an insightful humorist who penned more than 30 plays and just as many screenplays (though those were mostly screen adaptations of his plays).

The list of his works include "The Odd Couple," "Barefoot in the Park," "Brighton Beach Memoirs," "The Goodbye Girl" and many more. For his works, Simon received more Tony and Oscar nominations than any other writer.

Simon's career got its start with the semi-autobiographical "Come Blow Your Horn," now playing at Parkland College Theatre. Though it took him three years to write and perfect this inaugural comedy, its consistent hilarity firmly establishes his irrefutable genius.

"Come Blow Your Horn" is the story of the Baker Brothers.

Alan is a confirmed and very active bachelor living the high life in his swank, mid-century modern apartment.

Buddy, 12 years his junior, is the good son, who follows all the rules. He's good to his mother, and he works hard for his father in the family's wax fruit business.

The problem is, Buddy is bored. He sees no future in the wax fruit business, and he longs to live the care-free life of his older brother. He reached his breaking point just after his 21st birthday, and in an uncharacteristically bold move, Buddy arrives at his brother's apartment, suitcase in hand, ready to begin his bachelor training.

For Alan, his brother's timing couldn't be worse. He's got a date due to arrive in 10 minutes, and he's behind in his work. He too works for the family business, but his skill set seems to be more in the wining and dining of clients, much to his father's chagrin.

As the brothers try to sort out and prepare for the inevitable parental fallout of Buddy's departure, their thoughts are constantly interrupted by ringing phones or knocks at the door.

First, their father arrives to visit his son Alan, "the bum," to find out why he missed an important meeting with a client.

Then Mama shows up, concerned that her baby boy Buddy will forget to eat.

And then there's Peggy, the upstairs neighbor, who is trying to break into the picture business.

And finally, there's Connie, the girl who just may convince Alan that it's time to grow up.

This well-paced student production is directed by Melissa Goldman, who doubles as the production's scenic designer. Goldman captures all of the complicated layers of the Baker family dynamics and guides her talented cast to deliver the goods with a refreshingly natural flair.

Impressive performances throughout the evening, led by David Katz, who sets the pace as Alan. Thom Billam shines as Buddy, and David E. Laker and HeatherAnn Layman as Mr. and Mrs. Baker, are at their exasperating best.

Lovely supporting performances by Lizz Morris (Peggy) and Celia Mueller (Connie) complete the production that had the audience in stitches.

Kudos to sound designer Nick Harris for his musical selections, including a nod to "Ol' Blue Eyes," Frank Sinatra, who starred as Alan in the film version of this delightful comedy.

Tricia Stiller is the downtown division manager for Bloomington Community Development and the artistic director for Bloomington's Summer Theatre Program.

Topics (2):Education, Theater
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