"BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS" ILLUMINATE TEENAGE ANGST

BONNIE GOLDBERG

Eugene Morris Jerome is a lot of name for a teenager to carry around, especially if his goal is to be a Yankee ball player named Joe. Eugene is philosophical enough to know if he can't be a star on the mound, he may well be a writer. If writers need to suffer, he feels his name is a good start and his complicated family life will push him miles along to winning a Pulitzer Prize.

Carey Cannata is wonderful as the growing into puberty Eugene who accepts that no matter what happens in his lower middle-class Brighton Beach home in Brooklyn he will be blamed. Forget that the household includes his dad Jack (Michael Iannucci), his mother Kate (Sarah Knapp), his older brother Stanley (Robert Mueller) as well as his mom's sister's family, Blanche (Elizabeth Donnelly) and her girls Laurie (Hannah Hartmann) and Nora (Lauren Devine). The strain of having to feed and provide for so many family members is taking a toll on the patriarch Jack and adds a health burden to the everyday problems.

This involving tale is a semi-autobiographical one credited to playwright Neil Simon and is part one of a trilogy. "Brighton Beach Memoirs" is being lovingly created on stage by director Semina DeLaurentis at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury until Sunday, October 19. Eugene talks directly to the audience and confesses, reveals, discloses and shares everything that goes on under the Jerome roof, from the agony of having liver and onions for dinner to the awakening of sexual stirrings for his cousin Nora and how those feelings make him react.

Luckily Eugene has a big brother who can open the bathroom door and explain all those weird feelings brought on by puberty. But those are only the tip of Eugene's Golden Palace of the Himalayas. The family has money troubles, long buried feelings of envy and resentment, gambling issues, fears about an approaching war, lost opportunities on the stage, health issues that affect productivity, prejudices, loneliness and self-pity, plus Eugene's fixation on naked women. And don't forget this is a comedy!

The entire cast is perfectly in tune and talented for every nuance. We grieve with Nora's chances that are dashed and Blanche's promise of love that is squashed so soon. We commiserate with Stanley on his dilemma about principles versus practicality. We understand Kate's worries about everyone she holds dear. The year is 1937 and the world is fast approaching a momentous decision. Daniel Husvar's two-layered set makes us privy to all the aspects of family life in this Brooklyn homestead.

For tickets ($38-52.50), call the Seven Angels Theatre, Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at SevenAngelsTheatre.org. Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The theater is just off I-84 and parking is free.

Music legend Little Anthony will bop, roll and rock into Seven Angels on Wednesday, October 8 at 7 p.m. to sing and share his life story. His new book "My Journey-My Destiny" will be available for signature. Purchase tickets and books online and save, $37.50 (with book $55) to $42.50 (with book $60).

Watch Eugene Morris Jerome officially end his childhood and march into puberty straight through the doors of the Golden Palace of the Himalayas.

 

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