BWW Interview: Aliza Bardfield of BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS at Oyster Mill Playhouse
Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs is the first play in his semi-autobiographical trilogy, which also includes Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound. The play tells the story of a family living in the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn, New York during the depression. Since its Broadway premier at the Alvin Theatre in 1983, it has been hailed as one of Simon's best plays because of the authenticity of the family relationships it portrays. While the 1986 film version was found lacking by critics, and an attempted Broadway revival in 2009 was unsuccessful, Brighton Beach Memoirs has found its way to the community theatre stage bringing Simon's well-written characters and trademark humor to modern audiences. You can catch Brighton Beach Memoirs at Oyster Mill Playhouse from July 12-28. To find out a little more about the play and its production at Oyster Mill, we spoke with Aliza Bardfield, who will be portraying the role of Kate.
BWW: Tell us a little about yourself.
Bardfield: I'm originally from Lancaster county, and I grew up as the youngest of four girls. My grandparents were from New York and Boston, so I didn't really fit into the Lancaster vibe as a kid. I was that kid that was always trying to fit in, never quite making it, and feeling like I just didn't belong. Classic movies were my escape from reality, and I've been drawn to theatre my entire life. I've now been involved in community theatre, on and off, for about 25 years. Along with spending time on stage, I have also enjoyed taking courses to keep me honed and fresh and to stretch myself theatrically. Recently, I've moved into directing as well.
BWW: What made you interested in auditioning for Brighton Beach Memoirs?
Bardfield: I love the characters created by Neil Simon because they're very real and you can definitely relate to them. There were two female characters that I wanted to go for when auditioning: the sisters Kate and Blanche. They have a wonderful relationship, each one enabling the other during the period the play takes place. Kate is always looking out for everyone, and she's that very stereotypical mother to everyone, in many respects. She nags and loves with all of her heart. It's because she cares so much that she nags. She has some wonderful moments. Blanche, on the other hand, is trying to find her place in the world after her husband's death. She leans very heavily on her sister Kate, without even realizing it. In the end, I ended up with the role of Kate, and I couldn't be happier.
BWW: Tell us about your character in Brighton Beach Memoirs
Bardfield: Kate is loving, giving, and nurturing, but also illogical at times. She nags others while using that old trick most mothers have perfected, known as a guilt trip. Her relationship with each of the other characters is unique, and she tends to keep her own feelings and emotions buried so as not to burden others with her concerns. Kate really runs the ship that is the home and the family. She lives during the Great Depression and tries to make ends meet, making sure that there's food on the table, the house is clean, and the rest of her family is happy. But we do get to see her flaws and cracks, particularly in the second act. She's a wonderful character to get to know.
BWW: What is your favorite thing about the show?
Bardfield: I love that it's told primarily through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy, Eugene, living in the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn. We see and hear his views about life, growing up, his family, and his concerns about going through puberty and learning about life. Eugene has some hysterically funny moments and some very touching moments. He also is the only character to break the 4th wall as he speaks directly to the audience as a narrator. It's fun to be a part of bringing Eugene's world to life. I also love my scenes with Megan McClain who's playing Blanche. There is so much love, but also so much that's never been said over the years that should have been said between these two women. Their scenes are wonderful to play because there are highs and lows-it just flows beautifully. The dialogue and dynamics are incredibly well written.
BWW: What do you think modern audiences will relate to the most?
Bardfield: For the most part, there isn't anything in the show that's not easy to relate to. You have a family dealing with daily life. You have a story of growing up and coming of age. You have a story of each member of the family having their own place and a label that helps to define who they are and who they become-whether it be the tall one, the skinny one, the smart one, the pretty one, the baby, or the actress in the family. These labels are ones that most families sort of naturally place on each child, and everyone can relate to how this helps to give us an identity and a place in the world. It's also about just being a kid at times, and this is something we can all relate to.
BWW: What will make the OMP production of Brighton Beach Memoirs memorable, and why should readers take time this summer to see it?
Bardfield: It's a fun show with a lot of heart. It's an American classic. We have some amazing young actors on our stage as Eugene and his cousin Laurie. It would be a great way for families to see what community theatre has to offer for the whole family while taking in the wonderful words, characters, and story created by Neil Simon.
BWW: If Neil Simon had written a play about your life, what would the title be and what actor would you want to play the character based on you?
Bardfield: This is a tough one. I would love to have Cate Blanchett play me; however, she's 5'9" so that would be really weird since I'm 5' tall. I'm going to go with Helena Bonham Carter to play me; she's closer to my height and just amazing to watch in every incarnation she's portrayed. She's also very unique and not afraid to be who and what she is, which is something I really admire. The title of the play is tough as well, but I would simply call it "Aliza" since this is who I am and it says it all.
Visit www.oystermill.com today to order your tickets for Brighton Beach Memoirs.