It’s not often that a first play stands the test of time as well as Neil Simon’s Come Blow Your Horn, now playing at the St. Croix Off Broadway Dinner Theatre in Hudson, WI. Come Blow Your Horn is filled with all the situational humor and relatable character clashes that suffuse Simon’s plays, well-paced and well-made. Under James A. Zimmerman’s direction, the play is a smoothly running ship of chuckles where the first act just flies on by and the second act gets even better.
- Read Basil Considine’s feature on Come Blow Your Horn.
Simon famously modeled many of his characters and stage relationships on people in his life. The result here is a sense of veracity to how the characters relate and how they clash. Watch John Haynes’ Father lecture his sons, and you instantly get a sense that this has happened hundreds of times. The parent-child tensions and “settle or sample” relationship angst are timeless.
The most dated aspects of this play are some details of the playboys’ seductions that now have Weinstein-ian connotations. Although many Neil Simon plays work fine in a variety of historical settings, this one works best in the context for which it was written: New York City in the early 1960s, à la Mad Men. As the rebellious playboy son at the start of the play, Grant Hooyer (as Alan Baker) brings charisma with just a hint of sleaze, enough for a graceful and believable arc to his famous mid-play argument with the family’s new playboy, Alan’s younger brother Buddy Baker (a vicariously vivant performance by Dylan Rugh).
A recount of the play’s plot is entirely unnecessary, both because of the naturalness with which it unfolds and the clear focus on generational divides, parent-child conflict, sibling dynamics, and free love vs. commitment. The latter theme takes centerstage in two of the play’s most memorable scenes and performances, when Connie (Nicole Korbisch) and Alan have a verbal throw-down about commitment with sex on the line.
Sue Gerver gives a memorable performance as Mother, stirring feelings of guilt with every melodramatic word and gesture (the mothers in the audience seemed to especially enjoy this). Caitlin Featherstone’s Penny is lightly written, but her performance is engagingly scene-stealing in her hilariously inconvenient interruptions as the plot progresses. Haynes’ Father hits the very archetype of the disapproving father.
The wax fruit business may sound like the dullest of transactions, but with Neil Simon’s script and some shrewd deliveries, these fruit have quite the shine.
Come Blow Your Horn runs through October 28 at the St. Croix Off Broadway Dinner Theatre at the Hudson House Grand Hotel in Hudson, WI.