Director: Ronan Marra
Scenic Designer: Ian Zywica
Sound Designer: Anthony Ingram
Costume Designer: Kimberly Morris
LAUGHTER FROM NEIL SIMON’S MEMORIES
In “Brighton Beach Memoirs” Neil Simon relies on his memories from his early life for values which ring even more true today. Memoirs centers around family and the relationships within. Each of the seven cast members struggles with individual problems and crisis, overlaid with Simon’s lightning speed humor, and you have one exceptional evening of theater.
Memoirs brings out some of the most serious ideas about life, principles, loyalty, and a coming of age for the youngest son, played by Ryan Stajmiger. He superbly acts as narrator and character in the play, and his riff on having to eat liver is especially mentally visual. He learns much from his older brother Stanley (Joseph Galizia), who boldly meets the difficult task of giving “the talk”, when Eugene doesn’t understand his puberty changes…a scene not to be forgotten because of the lengthy, vividly hilarious exchange.
Much of the play evolves between the mother Kate (Brigitte Ditmars) and her widowed sister Blanche (Stephanie Chavara). Blanche’s two daughters further complicate the living space, and complexity of the story…with Joseph Stearns as father, completing the household.
About the middle of the Depression with World War II looming soon, “Brighton Beach Memoirs” should not fool us into thinking this play is dated. Neil Simon wrote Memoirs, the first in his Trilogy, in the early 1980’s. In his second play, “Biloxi Blues,” he describes his military service, especially boot camp. And the third piece, “Broadway Bound,” details his adult life struggling to find his career, back again with his brother, Stanley.
Youth may relate to the frustrations of the four teen agers in the play regarding their wants that conflict with the parents’ wisdom or maybe not. But everyone in the audience should be able to notice the respect and love that they attempt to show toward their parents.
Ian Zywica’s scenic design works very well with its three levels. The upstairs bedroom, and the first floor with front porch are most appropriate to the period of the mid 1930’s, and a lower front street level allows another platform for the actors to move all over the set quite smoothly.
I would be challenged to even guess how many separate jokes and zingers Neil Simon wrote for Memoirs, and they sneak up or slide into some of the most dead serious moments. Neil Simon wrote remarkable dialogue, and Fox Valley Repertory gives an outstanding winning performance for a funny funny good time. Try “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and enjoy!
Reviewed September 6, 2014
Performances by Fox Valley Repertory
August 28 – October 19, 2014
Lake Theater at Pheasant Run
4051 E. Main Street
St. Charles, IL 60174
Show times are: Fridays & Saturdays @ 8:00 p.m. and Sundays @ 2:00 p.m.
Special Thursday performances are Sept. 18 & 25 and Oct. 16 @ 2:00 p.m.
The show is rated PG-13.
For tickets call the Box Office 630.584-67342 or email: [email protected] Fridays and limited Thursday performances are $32 and Saturday and Sundays are $42.
There is easy access to the theater and free parking.