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Village Players of Birmingham to Stage BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS, 1/16-2/1

The New Year is often a time of reflection and remembrance. It's timely then that the Village Players of Birmingham presents Brighton Beach Memoirs, a memory play that is reflective of young Neil Simon's own life. Playing Jan.16 - Feb. 1, 2015.

Brighton Beach Memoirs is Neil Simon's funny, yet touching semi-autobiographical portrait of a Jewish-American family as seen through the eyes of a 15-year-old boy, Eugene Morris Jerome (Antonio Cipriano). In the post-depression, pre-war-era Brooklyn, the most pressing thoughts on the mind of Neil Simon's protagonist are baseball and girls. Living with six other family members under one roof doesn't afford young Eugene much privacy, but it does provide him with plenty of ammunition for his nascent career as a writer. In excerpts from his journal, he introduces his over-worked father (Tony Amato), his under-appreciated mother (Janie Minchella), his comparatively worldly older brother Stanley (Salvatore Sbrocca), his cousins Nora; the beautiful star-in-training (Kate Dickinson) and Laurie; the pampered bookworm (Noel Stanley), and his widowed, asthmatic Aunt Blanche (Cathie Badalamenti). The resulting coming-of-age story is an affectionate, thoroughly entertaining lesson in overcoming hard times with warmth, tears, laughter and humor.

Brighton Beach Memoirs is the first chapter in what is known as Simon's Eugene Trilogy. It precedes Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound. Although related, all three plays are stand-alone works.

Village Players Director Michael A. Gravame was first introduced to this play by his Aunt and Uncle who saw the show at The Fisher Theatre . When the character of Eugene walked on stage and spoke his first line, Michael's uncle leaned over to his aunt and said "That's Michael!" Michael went on to portray the role of Eugene six times (three times in Brighton Beach Memoirs, once in Biloxi Blues and Twice in Broadway Bound). When Michael found out that Village Players had put Brighton Beach Memoirs on their slate for this season, he decided it was time to give back and to pass the torch to a new Eugene and Jerome family by serving as director. "I have so much invested in this story and these characters. I wanted to share my knowledge and passion for the material. I lost both my parents recently, which make the theme of family unity that runs through the show even more poignant to me. I am finding comfort being able to spend this holiday season with the Jerome family and also with my Village Players family."

Brighton Beach Memoirs is all about family Director Gravame reflects, "I really see my own family in this show," says Michael. "The Jerome's are Jewish and we are Italian, but the traditions of growing up with the majority of your relatives in the same area, sharing celebrations and big family dinners, are the same.

The Village Players of Birmingham presents Brighton Beach Memoirs running January 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, 31 at 8:00 p.m. and January 18, 25, and February 1 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $18 and are available on the theater's website or by calling the theater box office at 248-644-2075. The playhouse of the Village Players is located at 34660 Woodward Avenue in Birmingham.

The Cast:

Eugene Morris Jerome - Antonio Cipriano of Grosse Pointe Shores

Kate Jerome - Janie Minchella of Sterling Heights

Stanley Jerome - Salvatore Sbrocca of Shelby Township

Blanche Morton - Cathie Badalamenti of Birmingham

Jack Jerome - Tony Amato of Grosse Pointe Woods

Nora Morton - Kate Dickinson of Pleasant Ridge

Laurie Morton - Noel Stanley of Franklin

About The Village Players - The Village Players of Birmingham, a 501 (C) (3) nonprofit community theater celebrating its 92nd season, presents high quality dramatic, comedic, and musical productions. All community members are invited to participate on stage, backstage or as an audience member in the theater's main stage, youth theater, and Playwrights at Work productions and programs. The Village Players has been entertaining the community from its current location, 34660 Woodward Avenue in Birmingham, since 1926.

Pictured: The Jerome family (left to right). Back row - Kate Dickinson (Nora), Tony Amato (Jack), Janie Minchella (Kate); Middle Row (left to right) - Noel Stanley (Laurie), Cathie Badalamenti (Blanche), Salvatore Sbrocca (Stanley); On Floor - Antonio Cipriano (Eugene).

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