Constant fights, inappropriate jokes and never ending crises: it’s not the Jersey Shore, though – it’s Brighton Beach.
With stellar comedic timing and professional-quality tech work, “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” the winter play, astounded audience members.
The show, a semi-autobiographical piece by legendary playwright Neil Simon, follows a somewhat dysfunctional Jewish family as they try to survive the difficulties of life – worsened by the Great Depression – in the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn, New York.
In the steady hands of this ensemble, Simon’s rhythmic and vivid writing-style came to life with ease. The cast members skillfully balanced their emotional maturity with expert comedic timing, and actors never broke character. The cast bravely and successfully took on a few worthy challenges, like sporting authentic Brooklyn accents.
Sophomore Noah Franklin excelled as Eugene, the show’s occasional narrator and main character, and provided a sweet and believable voice to the story. Some of the show’s most intimate – and hilarious – moments came from the realistic conversations between Eugene and his experienced older brother Stanley, played by junior Ryan Savage. Together, they discuss everything from puberty to their beautiful teenage cousin Nora (senior Michelle Huey), in the privacy of their shared bedroom.
Despite all the raging hormones, most of the play’s tension came from the strained interactions between Eugene’s mother, Kate, (senior Aliza Daniels) and the rest of the household. As the assertive matriarch, Daniels showed off her forceful nature by nagging her husband, Jack (junior Nathuan Liu), nitpicking at her sickly niece, Laurie (junior Jessie Mann) and fighting with her sister, Blanche (sophomore Hannah Chenok). The believable tête-à-têtes made playgoers feel as if they were eavesdropping on the neighbors next door, an effect that is no easy feat for a high school production.
“I had just watched the movie of ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ a while ago, so I still had that in mind when I saw the play tonight, but this was better than the movie,” parent Mary Ellen Levine said. “It was so impressive.”
A beautiful and detailed set created under the leadership of technical directors Nick Allen and Matt Lewis enhanced this familial atmosphere. Scenic designer Hailey LaRoe, along with scenic artists Harry Cash and Phoebe Schmidt, did not overlook any details in making the home look and feel as genuine as possible. The props team, led by Cera McAndrew and Evan Lund, also added to this authentic feel with their well-researched home furnishings.
Producer Daniel Levine said this sense of realism is what sets the play apart from past productions.
“Nothing is too exaggerated or over-the-top,” Levine said. “It required a lot of research to understand the context of the show, so the details are very elaborate, but everything is still very realistic.”
The sound team, led by Alex Allen and Lindsay Worthington, set the mood as well with appropriate 30s-style music, which aided in setting the mood for the show without distracting from the acting. Overall, there were no detectable technical problems, and the lighting was equally impeccable.
Despite the fact that cast and crew were crunched for rehearsal time, their hard work was well worth it, director Christopher Gerken said.
“I’m super proud,” Gerken said. “Everyone in the cast really holds their own, and the tech team always bring so much hard work to the show.”
Everyone in the audience was pleased and surprised by the professional quality of the play, especially considering its raunchy humor. The mature work from everyone involved made “Brighton Beach Memoirs” a spectacular experience you won’t want to miss.
“Brighton Beach Memoirs” continues March 1 and 2 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets cost $10 for students, $15 for adults and $20 for reserved tickets.