Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Brighton Beach Memoirs"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2003 by Tony Annicone

"Brighton Beach Memoirs"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Theatre Works' current show is Neil Simon's autobiographical play, "Brighton Beach Memoirs". This play is not only beautifully written but has marvelous acting too. The story is about family relationships both good and bad including sibiling rivalries past and present, parent and child authority issues and the hilarious escapades of a 15 year old boy's entrance into puberty. Director Chris Gaulin's expert casting of his 7 member cast, his attention to the three story set playing area and the authentic costumes by Sharon Charette make this a must see show. His insightful direction brings out the comical and poignant moments perfectly, giving each actor their time to shine in their standout scenes. His hard working stage manager, Tina Kenney keeps things running smoothly and Chris Cournoyer's expert lighting adds to the success of this show.

Charles Lafond 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. Charles makes every move and nuance count. Charles' interactions with the other characters are well done, showing his great depth and range as a juvenille actor. One of the funniest scenes in the show is between Eugene and his older brother when they discuss sex. ( wet dreams, naked breasts and puberty itself) Charles also shows the dramatic side of Eugene when his brother leaves home by crying and using a choked up voice. Bravo on a job well done.

Jack Ferdman plays Stanley, Eugene's older brother. Stanley feels like he is a failure because Eugene does well in school and is bound for college. Jack is another talented actor who shows his comic side in the sidesplitting sex talk scene and yelling at Eugene not to swear and proceeds to swear himself. His warmth and caring for Eugene comes through as does his need for approval and love from his father. Jack makes you able to relate to Stanley's problems with almost losing his job and gambling as well as empathizing with him when he finally returns home. The boys long suffering parents, Kate and Jack are played by Mary Finn and Steve Slate. Mary's Kate is strict but with a loving warmth and humor to her. She is a strong woman who can handle the many problems of her family. Mary does a great Jewish accent and plays the confrontation scenes with Blanche and Stanley wonderfully. Some of her funny moments include her chastisment of Eugene's not eating liver for supper and his playing baseball noisily. Steve also does a great Jewish accent and fleshes out Jack by his warmth and love for the whole family in his home. His sage advice to the others helps them solve their problems. One example is when he tells Stanley of his brother's death in World War Iand how it affected him and how glad he is that his son didn't enter the army. Jack also yells at Kate and Blanche to make up after their fight because family is more important than anything. These two performers do a great job in their portrayals.

Kat Alix-Gaudreau plays Kate's younger sister, Blanche who has always had her parents, older sisters 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. Kat handles the role of the weaker sister very well by giving her a backbone to stand on her own. She grows into her own person by the end of the show when she realizes she has been neglecting her older daughter, Nora while coddling younger daughter, Laurie who has a flutter in her heart. Nicole Foti plays the beautiful 16 year old Nora perfectly. Nora misses her dead father and takes out her resentment on her mother by dating an older man. Nicole shows this young girl's hurt not only with her lines but by crying in the final scene with Blanche, making it poignant. The younger daughter Laurie who has been spoiled by her mother, is played by Colleen Endicott. She does a wonderful job as the little girl who uses her illness to avoid doing the chores. Her uncle sees through her facade and puts her to work doing the work she has been shirking. One of the funniest scenes is when she and Eugene race out of the house for ice cream because she isn't supposed to run and play like other children.

So for an excellent rendition of this wonderful, Neil Simon show, be sure to catch it before time runs out. You won't be disappointed, just tell them Tony sent you.

"Brighton Beach Memoirs" (7 - 16 November)
78 Earle Street, Woonsocket, WOONSOCKET, RHODE ISLAND
1 (401)766-1898

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide