Neil Simon wrote three plays that were mostly autobiographical. “Brighton Beach Memoirs” was the first, and the best. “Biloxi Blues” was the second and “Broadway Bound” was the third. “Brighton” stands out among all three shows because of its heart and credibility. The challenges faced by the family depicted in 1937 are just as valid in our world of 2012.
The character of Eugene Morris Jerome, age 15, introduces the audience to his large family. They are living in a small home in the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. The Rep has cast the perfect young actor for the role of Eugene, Ryan DeLuca. If there is a man in the audience that doesn’t see a lot of himself at that age being reflected in Eugene, then he must have had a very dull upbringing. Eugene is constantly fantasizing about sports and girls. He has energy to burn. He strives to avoid homework and chores with equal vigor, and he has a serious crush on his cousin Nora, who lives with her widowed Mom and sister in Eugene’s parent’s house.
Engene’s older brother Stanley, played smartly by Michael Curran-Dorsano, is Eugene’s mentor and educator in all the things a young teenage boy is dying to know about.
The quiet and practical bedrock of Eugene’s family is his father Jack, played with understated but purposeful strength by Adam Heller, who resembles a soft-spoken George C. Scott. In many respects, Heller gives the best performance of this excellent cast.
Scenic design by Michael Ganio is magnificent, authentic and perfectly detailed. The two level home interior set evokes the emotions of the times and Eugene’s family as they deal with financial problems, personal family relationship issues, worrisome health prospects, unemployment and even the simple task of putting a decent meal on the table.
Steve Woolf directs this production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs” with great empathy and awareness of the people whose story is being displayed. For many, this show will hit home quite literally. For all, it is a visit to a family who exemplifies a love for one another that transcends any challenge, or any problem. And more than that, it reaffirms for all of us how love can really conquer all.