NEW YORK NOTEBOOK -- If spring wanderlust calls, and you find yourself Manhattan- bound, you might try to find a ticket to two winners that recently opened on Broadway:
"Biloxi Blues," the second in Neil Simon's projected trilogy of autobiographical plays, looks like his best work to date. At the Neil Simon Theater, it's a series of bittersweet vignettes about Eugene Morris Jerome's army days at Biloxi, Mississippi. Eugene's three ambitions are to lose his virginity, fall in love and become a writer. He succeeds at all three, with the familiar Simon snickers coming thick and fast, but there's more than a little pain involved, and some dark and sensitive moments, which are unusually well-handled. Matthew Broderick once again plays Eugene, Simon's stand-in, and he's grown considerably as an actor. His performance is fully matched by the other young performers in a display of finely tuned ensemble acting.
"Joe Egg" -- Peter Nichols' moving, semi- autobiographical tragicomedy -- has reopened at the Longacre. As ingeniously structured as his "Passion Play," which was recently produced at Arena Stage, "Joe Egg" shows a couple coping with despair because their brain- damaged child will be a vegetable for life. It's full of the humor of necessity; though private jokes don't lessen the pain, they make it easier to bear. Because their daughter is forever characterless, they invent pet names ("Joe Egg"), personalities and thoughts for her, and through this technique, Nichols lays bare their thoughts. The cast creates fully realized lives: Jim Dale plays the mischievous Bri, who can't resist a self-protective wisecrack, and Stockard Channing is moving as his more pragmatic and hopeful wife, Sheila.
"BE WONDERFUL" WILL DO -- Don't ever say "break a leg" to Pam Bierly. The Washington singer/actress has had more than her share of bad luck with her cabaret act. Last year, her one-woman show of Stephen Sondheim songs had to be canceled when she was hit by a car a few days after her well-received opening night. This year, the first weekend of her new one-woman show, "Trapeze," was interrupted by severe laryngitis. The voice is back, Bierly reports, and the show is on at D.C. Space Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. through April 13.
THAT'S THE SPIRITS -- Last month's wine- tasting benefit for New Playwrights' Theater raised about $1,000 for the financially troubled theater, a good start for the first public event in the campaign. On Monday at 8 p.m., there'll be a benefit beer-tasting event at the theater. Ten tax-deductible dollars get you a taste of 12 brews from seven countries, with commentary by beer expert Mark Weiner of Berose Liquors. Call 232-1122.
UP & COMING: You may have second thoughts about sitng in the front row at this one: The Venice Beach Chainsaw Juggler and Comedian is coming to Numbers nightclub this Thursday. His real name is Robert Gruenberg, he's 23, and he actually juggles a running chainsaw. Also bowling balls, flaming machetes and frozen fish. Tickets are $5 pre- sale, $6 at the door. Call 463-8888.