Memorable "Brighton Beach Memoirs"


Sept. 6, 2003, midnight | By Josh Gottlieb-Miller | 17 years, 4 months ago

Featuring senior Lynn Favin as the romantic interest


What's more dramatic than learning a lesson the hard way? Falling in love with the wrong girl (Blair's own Lynn Favin)? Struggling with adversity? Selfishly imagining you're the only one who has these problems?

Neil Simon's "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (the first in an autobiographical trilogy, this one set in Simon's youth) tackles all of these questions, and impressively so. Though not the easiest play to put on, The Montgomery Playhouse at Asbury manages a more than competent production with the excellent source material's assistance. Though the action is stiltingly confined largely to conversations, Simon's writing is capably hilarious. Still, beneath the humor are serious problems that can't be overstated or ignored.

The Montgomery Playhouse at Asbury's production is true to Simon's complex arrangement, maintaining up-tempo performance and staging that captures the spirit of Simon's writing. Most importantly, The Montgomery Playhouse at Asbury provides a genuinely entertaining show, a surprising and much appreciated value uncommon to community-theater.

Director Cecellia Rogers keeps the action moving and the staging energetic, and she's more than ably aided by her skilled cast. Not only is David Calder's Eugene (Simon's alter-ego) a believable Brooklyn youth, but he is also likable despite his character's whining and unusual choice of love interests.

Eugene has to deal with his mother's (Karen Fleming's Kate in a rightfully efficient performance) family living with them along with his own troubles. These overlap when Eugene reveals he has a crush on his cousin Nora (as wonderfully portrayed by Favin). Favin is a compelling performer, and she manages this possibly outrageous role with ease. The rest of the players are similarly capable (Bill Spitz's Jack is especially appealing). "It's an all star cast. We're all seasoned community theatre actors and it shows," Favin remarks.

The technical team does not disappoint either: John Hutson's set design conveys the scene without drama or clutter. Steve Deming's sound is never off and Michael Appleby's lighting design, though not exceptional, always keeps the audience watching the right place at the right time.

Though not spectacular, The Montgomery Playhouse at Asbury's production is an entertaining diversion, workmanlike and efficient throughout. More observant than brilliant, these "Brighton Beach Memoirs" find the beautiful humor in the rhythms of life.

Neal Simon's "Brighton Beach Memoirs" are playing through September 14 at the Rosborough Cultural Arts and Wellness Center.
Tickets are $10 for students ($12 for adults).



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