Port Tobacco Players Brighton Beach MemoirsBy Laura & Mike Clark • Jan 24th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Port Tobacco Players Info Web
Port Tobacco Players Theatre, La Plata, MD
Through February 10th
2:30 with one intermission
$17/$14 Seniors, Youth, Military
Reviewed January 21st, 2013
Brighton Beach Memoirs by Neil Simon opens this Friday at Port Tobacco Players in La Plata, Maryland. Port Tobacco allowed us to view a rehearsal this week of Neil Simon’s play. Brighton Beach Memoirs is part of Simon’s “Eugene Trilogy,” the story of Eugene Jerome from adolescence through his early writing career. The next two plays are Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound.
Brighton Beach Memoirs focuses on the life of teenager Eugene Jerome and his life with his family in the Brighton Beach neighborhood of New York in 1937. World War II is on the horizon, his aunt and two cousins are living with the family, and his older brother is having problems at work.
The cast of seven came together believably. The family covered a range of emotions, from excitement to worry rather quickly. The moments of humor were made all the more real as the situations revealed themselves. Situations include Eugene trying to see up his cousin’s skirt, Nora trying to make it big on Broadway at 16, Laurie being told she’s an invalid, Jack losing his job, Stanley leaving home. The second act is a bit more serious as the events force major decisions to get resolved.
Eugene (R. Austin Gore) served as the ever-friendly narrator, sharing his impressions of his family as he wrote their stories in his journal. Poor Eugene seemed to get blamed for everything and the family, especially his mother Kate (Lynne O’Meara), had no qualms about using whatever was handy to take a whack at the youngest Jerome. The physicality was real and well-played. The emotions brought up between Eugene and his older brother Stanley (Benjamin Simpson) flipped quickly from caring and supportive to name-calling. Gore was effective in staying focused on the task at hand, such as when Stanley gave him a special photograph.
Kate Jerome and her sister Blanche Morton (Joanne Fuesel) have a wonderful scene late in the show where they finally let their frustrations over their situations out. Eugene’s father Jack (Peter Piazza) exhibited a world-weariness throughout the story. Piazza’s delivery at times was reminiscent of Don Rickles.
The set (Richard Gilpin) itself was gorgeous with just a few final details to flush out with the set dressing (Ronna Johnson). Priscilla Grow’s costumes were spot on. Eugene was the brightest with the suspenders, bow tie, and knickers. Blanche’s dating outfit was attractive.
Brighton Beach Memoirs is a serious comedy, and a funny drama. It does contain adult situations, so not recommended for young children.
A note from the Director: I chose this show to direct because my family is the driving force in almost everything I do. It gives me the warm fuzzies all over thinking about all the times that my mother gave me a playful smack on the head because I was mouthy, or when my father would tell me how proud he was of me when I thought I had messed up. Even when I felt like my world was falling down around my ears, I could count on my sister to talk me through it and support me. I am very lucky to be so close with my family and as you probably can tell looking at the names in the program, we are able to share so many aspects of our lives with each other. I always thought I understood the influence the bonds of family have but as I discovered on January 7th, I didn’t even begin to get it. Holding my niece and Goddaughter Mia for the first time left me feeling completely gobsmacked. Here was this product of all the people I love and I found myself feeling so many things all at once. I have no idea what this world has in store for her, what ups and downs she may face as she grows up but I hope that her life is filled with playful smacks, bits of advice, and all the pride and love that I felt growing up in my big Jewish family. Enjoy the show and the walk down memory lane.
~ Melissa Gilpin Ball
A note from the Assistant Director: What is it about families that make them so interesting? We read books, watch movies and TV, go to plays all about families for entertainment. Are we comparing them to our family? Do we look normal next to them or do we realize we are all a little crazy in our own special way? Family can be so many things. This play is about a family, an extended family surviving the everyday pressures that we all face as a family. It could be set in any time period but it would still be the same. There are days when we hate to admit that we are part of a particular family but in the end you wouldn’t change a thing about any of them. I hope you find pieces of your family as you watch this production and you can laugh or cry a little when you think of them. As you read this program you will notice that this production is a family affair, mother and daughters, father, husband, son. It has been so much fun to work together to see our vision come together to what you will see tonight. But families are not just by birth we have other families as well. Our wonderful production team has become family. And I think you will find that our cast has become family as well and they will make you part of their family as well. Enjoy!
~ Joselle Gilpin
Photos provided by Port Tobacco Players
- Eugene Morris Jerome: R. Austin Gore
- Jack Jerome: Peter Piazza
- Kate Jerome: Lynne O’Meara
- Stanley Jerome: Benjamin Simpson
- Blanche Morton: Joanne Fuesel
- Laurie Morton: Cierra Wilson
- Nora Morton: Rachel Nutter
The Production Staff
- Producer: Liz Mildenstein
- Director: Melissa Ball
- Assistant Director: Joselle Gilpin
- Stage Manager: Michael Margelos
- Assistant Stage Manager: Kyle Bailey
- Set Design: Richard Gilpin
- Set Construction Lead: Richard Gilpin
- Set Construction Crew: Greg Pruitt, Kate O’Meara, Hiroko Piazza, Rafael Piazza, Chad Mildenstein, Heather Bauer, Kaitelyn Bauer, Melissa Gilpin Ball, Michael Margelos, Tessa Silvestro, Ronna Johnson, Will Darby, Brooke Howells, Brian Weiser, Brian Merritt And The Cast
- Set Painting: Ronna Johnson
- Assisted By: Jhonni Jones
- Set Decoration: Ronna Johnson
- Properties: Grenda Dennis
- Lighting Design And Operator: Tommy Scott
- Sound Design: Brian Donahue
- Sound Engineer: Will Darby
- Costume Design: Priscilla Grow
- Makeup And Hair Design: Heather Bauer, Kaitlin Bauer
- Assisted By: Quentin Sagers
- House Manager: Mary Bailey
Disclaimer: Port Tobacco Players allowed us to attend a tech week rehearsal for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/9043.
Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.