Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Brighton Beach Memoirs"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2007 by Tony Annicone

"Brighton Beach Memoirs"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Mansfield Music & Arts Society presents The New England Repertory Company's production of Neil Simon's "Brighton Beach Memoirs". It is an autobiographical play about Neil Simon's family relationships both good and bad including sibling rivalries past and present, parent and child authority issues and the hilarious escapades of a 15 year old boy's entrance into puberty. This play is not only beautifully written but has fabulous acting in it, too. Director Mike Kiernan expertly casts his 7 performers, pays perfect attention to the different playing areas on his unit set by Glenn Fournier. His insightful direction bring out the comic and poignant moments splendidly, giving each actor their time to shine in their standout scenes, making this a must see show especially impressive is Petr Favazza, the 13 year old boy playing the leading role of Eugene Morris Jerome, Neil Simon's counterpart in this show. His stage manager, Alan Conway keeps things running smoothly with lightboard operator, Alina Favazza while backstage stage manager, Brendan Paulsen keeps things running smoothly there. Everyone's efforts are rewarded with a thunderous standing ovation at the close of the show. Bravo.

The stupendous 13 year old actor, Petr Favazza as Eugene captures the audience in the palm of his hand from his first hilarious entrance to the final one with is high energy, dynamite line delivery and an acting capacity beyond his years. His monologues to the audience are brilliantly handled with his direct eye contact with various members of the audience and never losing a beat with any of his lines while doing so. Petr delivers his one liners perfectly and he makes every move and nuance count during his interactions with other family members. Some of the funniest scenes are between Eugene and his older brother when they discuss sex. ( wet dreams, naked breasts, puberty and a French postcard of a naked woman) Petr also handles the dramatic moments wonderfully, too especially when he breaks down crying when his brother decides to leave home for good. Bravo on a job well done. Hope to see Petr in many more roles in the future.

Michael Duncan Smith plays Stanley, Eugene's older brother. Stanley feels like he is a failure because Eugene does well in school and is bound for college. Michael shows off his talent with comedy during the sidesplitting sex tales and yelling at Eugene not to swear but ends up swearing himself. He shows off his dramatic side with his tears at thinking he let down his family by almost losing his job and by gambling, letting his warmth and caring for Eugene come through. The audience empathizes with Stanley's plight due to Michael's topnotch portrayal. The boys long suffering parents, Kate and Jack are played excellently by Beth Goldman and Brian Kelly. Beth's Kate is strict but loving mother and has a great deal of warmth to her while handling the many problems of the family. She is humorous as well especially when she chastise's Eugene for not eating liver for supper, his many shopping errands and playing baseball noisily. She handles the dramatic confrontations with Blanche and Stanley fantastically, too. Brian fleshes out the character of Jack with his warmth and love for his whole family in the home. His sage advice to the others helps solve their problems. Examples of this include when he tells Stanley about his brother Michael's death during World War 1 and how glad he is that Stanley didn't enlist in the service and when he insists that Kate and Blanche make up after their argument because family is more important than anything else.

Lynn Atkins-Latham plays Kate's younger sister, Blanche who always had her parents, older sister and her husband to take care of her. She is unable to handle her problems until her argument with Kate finally makes her realize she has to grow up and face the future. Lynn handles this role wonderfully and finally gives Blanche a backbone to confront her problems especially that she has been neglecting her older daughter, Nora while coddling younger daughter, Laurie who has a flutter in her heart. Lindsay Poole plays the beautiful 16 year old Nora wonderfully. She is the hidden object of Eugene's lust. Nora wants a job as a Broadway dancer but Jack and Blanche won't allow it. She misses her dead father and takes out her resentment on her mother by dating an older man. Lindsay show this young girl's hurt feelings in her confrontation scene with her mother. Abigail Koppel plays Laurie perfectly. She is properly bratty and snooty when asked to do her chores and loves to tattle on Eugene and Nora. Abigail plays the spoiled child to the hilt but Jack sees through her facade and makes her stop shirking her chores. So for a fabulous rendition of this Neil Simon show, be sure to catch "Brighton Beach Memoirs" at the Blackbox Theatre at MMAS. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Brighton Beach Memoirs" (30 March - 14 April)
MMAS, 30 Crocker Street, MANSFIELD MA
1 (508) 339-2022

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide