Brighton Beach Memoirs

By Marlene S. Gaylinn

Neil Simon’s nostalgic play, “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” opens this season of events at Seven Angels Theatre, in Waterbury, CT. Simon’s writing is so rich and funny that it’s practically a given for the theater’s Artistic Director, Semina De Laurentis, to put on a successful production.

The fine cast is led by a very talented, 15 year-old high school junior, Carey Cannata. He believably plays the actor/narrator, “Eugene Jerome.” As the youngest, male member of his struggling, Jewish family, he seems to be burdened and blamed for all the mishaps that surround him. He analyzes his position in the family like a philosopher, and presents his case to us like a lawyer -- which is a typical, Jewish characteristic.

Eugene’s assorted family members are: “Blanch” (Elizabeth Donnelly), “Kate” (Sarah Knapp), “Laurie” (Hannah Hartmann), “Nora” (Lauren Devine), “Stanley” (Robert Mueller) and “Jack” (Michael Iannucci). The fact that some New England and Irish accents tend to creep into the dialog, and some Jewish flavoring is missing, should not deter anyone’s appreciation of this production. Who can resist a very familiar, family dinner scene in which a mother pleas and bargains with her child to finish an unpopular dish -- in this case liver and onions:  “...stop hiding it under the mashed potatoes!” “Okay, eat half! “Eat only a quarter of it!” “Take just one bite!”

The play takes place during the 1930’s, just as WWII broke out in Europe, and through this young, teenagers eyes, we are actually witnessing the coming of age period of Neil Simon. In this lighthearted, autobiographical work, playwright’s cultural heritage and in particular, the ambitious values that have been handed down through many generations, are easily understood, enjoyed, and appreciated. No matter what your background, there is a common thread that runs through this story telling, and touches almost everyone. Don’t miss it!

Plays to: October 19. Tickets: 203-757-4676

This review appears in “On CT & NY Theatre” -- October/2014

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