BWW Review: BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS at Oyster Mill Playhouse
Family dynamics never really change, and Brighton Beach Memoirs is a wonderfully classic example of this. The play, written by Neil Simon, is the first of a semi-autobiographical trilogy written about Eugene Morris Jerome and his family. In this particular story, Eugene is almost 15 years old and has just reached puberty. As he learns how to deal with this new perspective on life, each member of his family is dealing with their own challenges. Though this play takes place in 1937, during The Great Depression, the obstacles that the characters face are just as relevant today as they were back then. My heart especially broke for Jack, Eugene's father, who begins having major health issues as a result of working two jobs just to try and make ends meet. When this is how one is forced to live, all it takes is one tiny stone to break the glass house. That stone gets thrown, but you'll have to come see the play to find out how the family is affected by and deals with picking up the pieces.
The quaint atmosphere of Oyster Mill Playhouse is a perfect setting for this story. I really enjoyed the way the set was utilized to create a two-story home that feels full yet cozy. With one exception, the set and props really helped to set the mood of a family trying to survive The Great Depression. The exception to this is something that, to most, might seem like a minor detail. I, however, thrive in the little details when creating a world for the stage. The unique clink of plastic silverware hitting the dinner table made me cringe a bit, as plastic silverware was not introduced until the 1940's (a bit after the play's 1937 setting). The lighting design team did a nice job keeping the house gently lit while using brighter lights to keep our eyes on the action as it moved throughout the house, creating a lovely ambience. There was one other detail that bothered me during intermission. It is a rule of thumb that stage crew should either be dressed in black or should be dressed to match the story being told. This is done in an attempt to keep the audience engaged in the story at all times. Unfortunately, the stage crew appeared in modern clothing, which definitely broke the magic for anyone who was in the theatre between acts.
Every role was perfectly cast. One of the most beautiful things about the characters in this play is that they are each portrayed as truly human, flaws and all. It's much easier to sympathize with characters who show that they're not perfect, and each performer found that balance with their respective character. I was especially impressed by Ashur Carman, who played Eugene with a perfect Brooklyn accent and excellent comedic timing.
Due to some of the humor surrounding Eugene's experiences with puberty, I would recommend some discretion when bringing your children to see this play. Consider leaving anyone under the age of 13 at home for the evening. You have until July 28th to check out this hilarious and heartwarming story of what it really means to be a family. Visit www.oystermill.com/wp to grab your tickets and get ready to meet a lovely group of characters that are just as alive in us today as they were 80 years ago.