Review of Brighton Beach Memoirs
By Neil Simon
Directed by Joe Gellura
For tickets / schedule :
Raven Performing Arts Theater, Healdsburg
RUN: January 29 – February 14, 2016
RATING: 3 of 5 stars
(January 30, 2016)
Brighton Beach Memoirs premiered on Broadway in 1983, and was adapted for film three years later. Playwright Neil Simon grew up in New York during The Great Depression of the 1930s, an era which parallels our current economy. Characters agonize over seventeen dollars gone missing, living in the crushing reality that a lost job could mean living on the street. When faced with moral dilemmas to working, the family must decide what means more—principles or putting food on the table. Interwoven with exterior pressures are growing tensions in relationships. Sisters are pushed to their limits with each other, boiling over in a confrontation years in the making, and young Nora Morton (Giovanna Poulos) struggles to make life changing decisions without a father to confide in.
Sasha Guleff as Eugene Jerome instills life into a shadowed world of hardship through snarky running commentary to the audience. He treats every situation as comedic gold, no matter how dismal it is, demonstrating how one person with a cheerful personality can raise the hopes of an entire family. Despite stumbling with the Brooklyn accent, Guleff is exhilarating and enthusiastic. His character’s never-ending quest to glimpse a disrobed girl for the first time is charming, although it does make the play unsuitable for young children to attend.
Mary DeLorenzo as Kate Jerome portrays a bellowing Jewish mother who expects perfection, but secretly loves her family deeply. Jack Jerome (Gregory Skopp) is a quiet, amiable father who slowly bends to financial pressures, realizing that hard work isn’t enough, an all-too real sentiment for a modern audience. The ensemble puts their heart and soul into the production, and although there is inconsistency with the lines and the accents could use improvement, there were real moments of feeling in the play that I was impressed by.
Set designer Steve Thorpe outdid himself with tiered layers of rooms, furnished in a haphazard manner, demonstrating the financial difficulties faced by the Jeromes. The living areas are meticulously clean, a reflection of Kate’s personality. While the costumes were not entirely accurate, they gave the general impression of the time period without being fussy.
Brighton Beach Memoirs explores a family’s struggle to understand each other and not give in to tragedy. You will laugh and weep with the Raven Players through this bitter-sweet venture into 1937.