It may seem odd that over the course of 46 seasons the Rep has never produced a work by prolific playwright Neil Simon, and yet it makes sense in a way. Simon has actually been overproduced by community theatres around the country, and the Rep is dedicated to seeking out new works, and putting a spin on timeless classics, so it's only logical that they've taken this long to get one of his works produced. Still, they've finally gotten around to him, and their production of Brighton Beach Memoirs is a memorable one, with the laughter and the tears flowing in great abundance. It's a wonderful start to what promises to be an entertaining season.
Part of Simon's “Eugene” trilogy, which includes Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound, Brighton Beach Memoirs is a semi-autobiographical look back at 1937, a period when times were still tight and war was looming in Europe. It's the story of an extended family doing what they can to make ends meet, while dealing with various issues that pop up. Mostly told through the eyes of the wise-cracking Eugene, it occasionally plays like a sitcom, but has just enough depth to overcome that kind of a label.
Ryan DeLuca is likable and amusing as the ever-horny Eugene, and he gets the bulk of the laugh lines. Michael Curran-Dorsano is sharp as his troubled older brother, whose firm principles cause him problems at work. Lori Wilner is strong as the family matriarch, Kate, and she's well matched with Adam Heller as the overstressed patriarch, Jack. Wilner is the one who yells to keep her charges in line, while Heller takes a more even handed approach, for the most part. Also living with the family is Blanche, Kate's asthmatic, widower sister and her two children. Christianne Tisdale does exceptional work as the beleaguered Blanche, virtually disappearing into her character. Aly Viny does fine work as her eldest daughter Nora, who has aspirations of appearing on the Broadway stage, and Jamey Jacobs Powell also shines as her youngest, Laurie.
Steven Woolf directs with a sure hand here, guiding the actors through their paces while mining the script for maximum laughter and dramatic potential. Michael Ganio's scenic design is impressive, as he captures the two story abode with amazing period flair. The same could be said for Elizabeth Covey's costumes. Phil Monat's lighting neatly focuses our attention on the action as it unfolds, and Rusty Wandall's sound design conjures up the era as well.
This is a nicely executed production, and well deserving of your time and attention. Brighton Beach Memoirs continues through September 30, 2012 on the mainstage of the Loretto-Hilton.