The Human Race Theatre Company presents Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Neil Simon’s heartfelt 1983 semi-autobiographical comedy “Brighton Beach Memoirs” beginning through April 22 at the Loft Theatre.
If you haven’t seen the play or the ‘80s film adaptation, the charming and touching “Memoirs” explores the relatable love and squabbles among the Jerome family in 1937 Brooklyn.
As a 15-year-old preoccupied with girls, baseball and writing, Eugene Morris Jerome (Simon’s alter ego) is experiencing a pivotal coming-of-age while coping with forces beyond his control in a house basically bursting at the seams.
In fact, Eugene, his stern mother Kate, his hard-working father Jack, and his worldly older brother Stanley, have had to open their home to Kate’s widowed sister Blanche Morton and her two daughters Laurie and Nora. Relationships are strained along the way, but the importance of connection within the bond of a blended family, specifically against the backdrop of World War II, remains paramount.
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“The possibility always exists that the Jerome family’s relatives in Europe might be displaced due to the war and their country being ravaged, so wanting to get their relatives to safety would mean everybody has to sacrifice,” said director Marya Spring Cordes, a Human Race resident artist and Head of Acting at Wright State University. “At any moment the family would need to open their hearts and home so their relatives could have a better life. The broader context of always being willing to be kind in a time of need is important for everyone to think about right now.”
Cordes is particularly excited about scenic designer Dan Gray’s two-story vision for the Jerome household. Cramped quarters are imperative in the action and the audience will be treated to different vantage points as certain scenes transpire.
“It’s amazing to think how crowded the house already is in addition to the possibility that they might have to add seven more people,” she said. “The set is designed to feel as if everyone is on top of one another. The way the play is written, we get to see the inter-life inside every room. When something is happening in one room we get to see what’s happening in another. There’s no privacy! The play is a prime example of how interconnected a family can be.”
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PART OF A TRILOGY
The first in Simon’s Eugene Trilogy, which includes “Biloxi Blues” and “Broadway Bound,” “Memoirs” continues the prolific and enduringly popular playwright’s acclaimed knack for creating authentic characters and situations. You don’t have to have been born Jewish or raised in New York City to grasp the sheer fundamentals of Eugene’s topsy-turvy journey.
“This play is Neil Simon at his most personal best,” Cordes said. “You see a little bit into his psychology as a teenager and the struggles he was going through. The play is also told through a lens of nostalgia. It’s interesting that he wrote this as an adult looking back at a time that was difficult, but because he had some distance of perspective there is always love and humor underlying the suffering, sadness and tragedy.”
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“Within Eugene’s journey he definitely changes,” echoed Eric Deiboldt, a New York-based actor who will make his Human Race debut as Eugene. “He doesn’t become an adult but his childhood ends. It’s important for me to be able to convey that in both physicality and in delivering lines. This play has always been one of my favorites. The humor is so funny, the drama is great, the language flows, and it’s just really well-written overall. It’s also fun to remember things in my own childhood and be able to apply it to the role. This cast is like a family as well. We’re creating a family and we have very good chemistry.”
The cast includes Richard Buchanan as Stanley, Lisa Ann Goldsmith as Kate, Oakwood High School student Julie Murphy as Laurie, Sonia Perez as Blanche, Rory Sheridan as Jack, and Wright State University student Katie Sinicki as Nora. Goldsmith and Perez were previously seen in the Human Race’s productions of “Mame” and “The Full Monty,” respectively. Buchanan, Murphy, Sheridan, and Sinicki will offer their Human Race debuts. The artistic team includes costumer Dave Arevalo, making his Human Race design premiere, and resident artists John Rensel (lighting design) and Jay Brunner (sound design and original music).
“This story is beautifully told,” Cordes added. “It’s told in a way that makes you laugh and cry from the perspective of a 15-year-old. There’s a little bit of naïve youth in the story as well as the wisdom of an adult explaining the past in a way that has maturity.”
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WANT TO GO?
What: "Brighton Beach Memoirs"
Where: Loft Theatre of the Metropolitan Arts Center, 126 N. Main St., Dayton
When: April 5-22; 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings; 7 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesdays evenings; and 2 p.m. Sunday matinees. There will be a post-show talkback after the April 15 performance.
Cost: $35-$40 for adults; $32-$37 for seniors; and $17.50-$20 for students. Prices vary depending on performance date and seating location.
Discounts: There are a limited number of $12 and $25 side area seats available for each performance; "Sawbuck Sunday" April 8 at 7 p.m. – $10 seats available for walk up sales only two hours prior to performance.
Tickets: Call (937) 228-3630 or visit www.humanracetheatre.org or ticketcenterstage.com.
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