North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre will present a community-theater production of Brighton Beach Memoirs, a hilarious semiautobiographical 1983 play by Broadway King of Comedy Neil Simon, on March 11-13, 18-20, and 25-27 in its small black-box theater in the Greystone Village Shopping Center in north Raleigh, NC. Brighton Beach Memoirs is the first part of Simon’s “Eugene Trilogy,” which also includes Biloxi Blues (1985) and Broadway Bound (1986).
“I grew up knowing all about Neil Simon,” admits director Beth Brody. “Some of my favorite shows were written by him, and The Goodbye Girl  is still my all-time favorite.”
She adds, “What I like best [about Brighton Beach Memoirs] is that it is about a family, I love stories that can be related to by many. Yes, it is a Jewish family in 1937, but in reality it could be any family in any generation.
“I wanted to direct [Brighton Beach Memoirs] for a couple of reasons,” Brody admits. “First, I like period pieces, I love to learn about the time period, and I love hunting down the perfect items to dress the set. Second, I love working on a piece where the family communicates entirely without modern technology. We forget about the times when you had to write a letter, you had no phone, and there was an uninterrupted dinner hour.”
Brody says, “[Brighton Beach Memoirs] takes place during the course of a few days in September 1937. The Jerome family is living in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, in a crowded walk-up. The family consists of Eugene Jerome (Leo Brody), a character based on Neil Simon’s life; his parents Jack and Kate Jerome (Falcon Arendell and Lisa Binion); and Stanley Jerome (David Salisbury), the older wiser brother.
“Due to the death of Kate’s younger sister’s husband Blanche Morton (Aubrey Comperatore) and her two daughters, Nora and Laurie (Ashlea Burnett and Lydia Nethercutt), have [also] been living with the Jerome family for three years,” Brody says.
She adds, “Eugene is hitting puberty and torn between seeing a naked girl and playing for the Yankees. He spends most of his time going to the store and pestering Stanley.
“Stan has troubles at work, and so does Jack,” explains Brody. “Nora wants nothing more than to leave home and become a Broadway star, and Laurie — who supposedly has a flutter in her heart — is never too far away from her asthmatic Mother. Tension builds in the household when all meet for dinner and try to get Jack’s attention.”
Brighton Beach Memoirs made its Broadway debut, directed by Gene Saks, on March 27, 1983 at the Alvin Theatre and later transferred to the 46th Street Theatre. It played a combined total of 1299 performances before closing on May 11, 1986.
The original Broadway production starred Matthew Broderick as Eugene Morris Jerome, Elizabeth Franz as Kate Jerome, Peter Michael Goetz as Jack Jerome, Mandy Ingber as Laurie Morton, Željko Ivanek as Stanley Jerome, Jodi Thelen as Nora Morton, and Joyce Van Patten as Blanche Morton. Brighton Beach Memoirs won two 1983 Tony Awards® — for Best Featured Actor in a Play (Matthew Broderick) and Best Direction of a Play (Gene Saks).
The 1986 motion-picture version of Brighton Beach Memoirs, also directed by Gene Saks from a screenplay by Neil Simon, starred Jonathan Silverman as Eugene, Blythe Danner as Kate, Stacey Glick as Laurie, Lisa Waltz as Nora, Judith Ivey as Blanche, Bob Dishy as Jack, and Brian Drillinger as Stanley.
In addition to director Beth Brody, who serves as the show’s properties manager and co-designed the set with technical director and lighting designer Michael Anderson, the North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre creative for Brighton Beach Memoirs includes producers Ken Brody and Sylvia M. Mallory, assistant director Yvonne Anderson, costume designer Laura Cormier Parker, and stage manager Andy Miller.
Director Beth Brody says the show’s set is “a crowded 1930s Brooklyn walkup”; its lighting is “subtle, with amber hues to indicate a post-Depression patina”; and its costumes are “period costumes designed and built by Laura Cormier Parker.”
Brody adds, “The biggest challenge [in staging Brighton Beach Memoirs] was staging a show that was written to be performed on a stage with two floors [on one floor]. Our space restrictions made it difficult, but not impossible, to create separate spaces for the bedrooms.
“As a director with three teenagers in the cast, I found it challenging to create a world where there was no instant gratification, i.e., Internet, Facebook, Iphones, texting,” says Beth Brody. “I wanted them to be in the past and embrace the world as it was, where you had to exercise patience when waiting for news, good or bad.
She warns, “Although [Brighton Beach Memoirs] is about a family, and a young boy, there is profane language and blatant discussion about masturbation.”
North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre presents BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS at 8 p.m. March 11-12, 18-19, and 25-26 and 3 p.m. March 13, 20, and 27 at NRACT, in the Greystone Village Shopping Center, 7713-51 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27615.
TICKETS: $15 ($12 students and seniors62+), except all tickets $10 for Sunday matinees and $5 Student Rush Tickets (sold 5 minutes before each show).
BOX OFFICE: 919/866-0228, email@example.com, or https://www.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?t=tix&e=f217705ff71084e9edb86b92af9cafb0.
DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.nract.org/2011/02/13/brighton-beach-memoirs/ (map at bottom of page).
NOTE: Group rates available for groups of 15 or more.
The Play: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brighton_Beach_Memoirs (Wikipedia), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?ID=2228 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090774/ (Internet Movie Database).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Simon (Wikipedia), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=7879 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0800319/ (Internet Movie Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.
To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.