Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Brighton Beach Memoirs"

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entire contents copyright 2000 by Tony Annicone

"Brighton Beach Memoirs"

The Players,America's oldest little theatre, final show of their 91st season is a riproaring smash hit from the opening line to the closing line. "Brighton Beach Memoirs", Neil Simon's autobiographical play not only is beautifully written but has marvelous acting to make it stand out success. This show is about family relationships both good and bad including sibiling rivalries past and present, parent and child authority issues and the hilarious issues of a 15 year old boy's entrance into puberty. Director Tom DiMaggio's expert casting of the 7cast members, his attention to the three story set playing area and the authentic l930 costumes make this a must see show. His insightful direction brings out the comical and poignant moments perfectly. Tom's blocking also gives the actor's their time to shine in their "standout" scenes. What a fantastic way to top off a season!

19 year old Justin Foster plays Eugene Jerome, ( Neil Simon as a youth) with high energy,great facial expressions and an acting capacity beyond his years. He narrates the happenings in his family while acting in the role. Justin makes every move, every nuance count. The audience loves this boy and is interested in what's happening to him thoroughout the entire show. Justin's loving relationship with his older brother comes across in two scenes. The first is the sex talk scene, the most hilarious scene in the show (about naked breasts, wet dreams and puberty itself)the second is when his brother leaves home, the audience's crys are audible to reward this tender time between brothers. Justin's interactions with the whole cast shows his great depth and range as a juvenille actor. One should keep their eye on this talented youth and expect many great things in the future. Bravo!

Jesse Reiswig plays Stanley, Eugene's older brother. Stanley feels he is a failure because Eugene does well in school and is bound for college. Jesse another superbly talented young actor, grabs the audience from the first time he steps out on the stage. His warmth with Eugene comes through as does his need for approval and love from his father. Jesse balances these warm moments with the side splitting sex talk scene. The audience can relate to Stanley's problems (gambling, almost losing his job) and empathize with him rejoicing when he finally returns home. Jesse is a very talented actor and I'm sure the audience will see him in many more wonderful multilayered roles.

Patricia Joaquin and Tom Gleadow play the parents, Kate and Jack. Both of them are veteran performers.Patricia's Kate is a strong willed woman who does not bend when her family is in trouble.Her best scenes are the confrontation scenes with her sister, Blanche and with Stanley. Some of the funny parts of her dialogue are in her chastisment of Eugene' not eating liver, eating cookies and playing baseball noisily. Tomfleshes out Jack by his warmth and love for his wife, sons, sister-in-law and her daughters. His sage advice to all of them helps the other characters solve their problems. I especially liked the two scenes where he reassures Stanley of his love and forgiveness of Stan's mistakes. Two emotionally rewarding scenes shine forth. Laurie Herbst plays Kate' weak willed sister, Blanche. These two characters take a while to get into the meaty part of their roles due to Simon's long use of them in the exposition scenes. However it is well worth the wait. The argument scenes with Kate and her daughter, Nora finally give Blanche the backbone she so sorely needs. Michaela McManus plays the beautiful 16 year old Nora perfectly. She misses her dead father,takes out her resentment on her mother and dates an older man. Michaela shows the hurt and resentment on her face and with her body language. It makes the final scene between mother and daughter poignant. Last but not least is 10 year old Rachel Miller-Sprafke as Blanche's youngest daughter Laurie. The character has a heart flutter so she is coddled and babied. Her uncle sees through her facade and puts her to work doing the chores she's been shirking. Rachel commands the stage in her scenes with the older actors. Her dialogue is interesting, her reactions and her listening to the others puts her on the same level as the older more experienced performers.

Kudos to Tom, his hardworking stage manager Lydia Matteson and his excellent 7 member cast have a wonderful run. To join this theater club call 1(401)273-0590 for membership or ticket information, you won't be sorry!

"Brighton Beach Memoirs" (till 21 May)
Barker Playhouse 400 Benefit Street, PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND
1(401) 273-0590

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide