North of the Boulevard at Phoenix Theatre 

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click to enlarge Trip (Bill Simmons) listens to Bear's (Ben Rose) lan to get rich playing McDonald’s Monopoly game in North of the Boulevard. - ZACH ROSING
  • Trip (Bill Simmons) listens to Bear's (Ben Rose) lan to get rich playing McDonald’s Monopoly game in North of the Boulevard.
  • Zach Rosing

Set just after Obama's election and before he first took office, North of the Boulevard finds three childhood friends and a drunken old man confronting racism, classism, homophobia and government corruption, just to name a few. Despite its ambitious thematic reach, Bruce Graham's humorous script stays plot-focused and character-driven.

Skillfully directed and thoughtfully acted, the production is subtle in its approach to these tough subjects. The play's setting - a crumbling auto shop - functions as a sort of microcosm of low-income, blue-collar life. In particular, Bill Simmons as Trip perfectly communicates the desperation of a man helpless to improve his family's quality of life. In the end, North of the Boulevard raises a lot of questions and gives no answers in its puncturing of the American Dream.

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