Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Westfield High School Brighton Beach Memoirs

By • Nov 24th, 2009 • Category: Cappies

“Baseball, boobs and what’s for dinner” are the only things a typical teenage boy needs to worry about. And Eugene Jerome is no exception! Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs takes the audience through a week in the life of the Jeromes, a Jewish family living in Brooklyn in 1937. Last weekend, Westfield High School transformed the stage into their household and took the audience along for a ride they won’t soon forget.

Simon’s semi-autobiographical comedy centers around Eugene (Kevin Clay), a fifteen year old who is trying to discover what life is. This coming-of-age tale charms viewers as they experience Eugene’s relationships with his family, including his mother, father, older brother, aunt, and her two daughters. His mother, Kate (Phoebe Dillard), is always blaming him for something, his father, Jack (John Walsh), is just trying to make ends meat, his brother, Stanley (Adam Thomas), offers tons of brotherly advice, and his cousin, Nora (Sarah Bowden), dreams of being under the stage lights. The two-act play revolves around Eugene’s reactions to his various family members and their problems.

Westfield’s production was anchored by perfect comedic timing and exceptional cast fraternity. The audience could clearly see the effort put into the characterization of the entire cast. While the use of Brooklyn accents by the entire cast was effective in establishing setting, some characters held onto it better than others. The cast handled very emotional, mature moments in a truly professional way, exceeding the expectations of high school theatre.

As the lead role, Clay made carrying a show look easy. With his impeccable comedic timing and a true understanding of his character and the emotions Eugene experiences, Clay captured the audience’s attention wholeheartedly. A veritable complement to his acting mastermind was Dillard, playing his mother Kate. The dynamic between the two was supreme and had the entire audience laughing hysterically. Even in the weightier scenes where family anguish was discovered, Dillard perfectly executed a difficult character for a high-school student to play.

There were several other noteworthy performance, including that of the sickly younger cousin, Laurie, played by Elisabeth Bloxam. Bloxam’s sass and subtle manipulation of Eugene was genius. She was always found to be reacting to the situation, even when she was not the focus. Equally as enthralling to watch was the performance of Thomas as Stanley. Thomas showed a great variety of emotion, ranging from the sophomoric, confident, older brother, to the exposed and fearful son. Thomas’ portrayal of Stanley losing his seventeen dollar salary for the month was truly moving.

The technical aspects of Westfield’s production were what made it truly exceptional. With sound flawlessly executed by Kieran Claffey and Taylor Aucott and exceptional lighting designed by Andy Talavera-Roca and Aria Velz, the audience was truly taken to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn New York. With lighting features as subtle as blue light to represent moonlight outside windows, to complement a beautiful, two-story set designed by Alex Butterfield and Annie Dykstra, a successful setting was produced.

The tech and the acting made Westfield’s production of Brighton Beach Memoirs left the audience wanting more; a truly remarkable production for such mature content at a high school level.

by Holly Kelly of Oakton High School

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