- Last Updated on 09:17 AM 04/10/12
- BY Becky Donner/Special to The Gazette
For theatre-goers, the name Neil Simon equates a good time: “The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, Come Blow Your Horn,” and numerous others.
Simon has earned 17 Tony nominations and won three, as well as a Pulitzer Prize for “Lost in Yonkers.” It is no wonder, then, that Halifax County Little Theatre has chosen another Simon play, “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” as their spring comedy, which opens April 19.
This play is Simon’s most notable of his autobiographical works from the trilogy about his youth, which include “Brighton Beach Memoirs” (1983), “Biloxi Blues” (1985), and “Broadway Bound” (1986).
Set in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York, in 1937, this coming-of-age comedy focuses on Eugene Morris Jerome, a Polish-Jewish American teenager who experiences puberty, sexual awakening, and a search for identity as he tries to deal with his family, including his older brother, his parents Kate and Jack, and Kate's sister Blanche and her two daughters, Nora and Laurie, who come to live there after their father's death.
Directing the play for Little Theatre is Martin Beekman, who directed last year’s winter comedy, “Almost, Maine,” to great success. Local audiences will also know Beekman from his roles in Little Theatre’s “Lying in State” and “Escanaba in Da Moonlight” a few years ago.
In the title role of the young Eugene is Joseph Grendahl . Eugene is a young boy who wants to be a writer or maybe a New York Yankees player in his fantasies. Joe Boutwell and Chawn Cliborne-Bego play his parents, Jack and Kate. Annette Woolard portrays Kate’s sister Blanche, and Haven Simon and Jordan Carr play her daughters. Halifax County High School senior Jordan Clifford plays Stanley, Eugene’s older brother.
Beekman said, “Brighton Beach features four young actors who have been working very hard to develop their performances. They have demonstrated a wonderful dedication to the process, not only working hard to learn substantial amounts of lines, but also giving of themselves in scene work to portray characters with honesty and sincerity. Their progress from self-conscious actors to more mature performers willing and able to work with experienced adults has been a joy to watch.”
Coordinating the many helpers on the show falls to Producer Sharon Brogden. It is her responsibility to gather the committee heads to make sure the all the backstage work is progressing on target. One of the most important roles in this show has fallen to Marshall Slayton as Set Construction Chair. He, along with Gene Haugh, Jesse Barksdale, Greg Donner, and Beekman, worked to create the set for Brighton Beach weeks ago, building off site since The Prizery was being used for “DREAMGIRLS.”
Beekman said, “Our dedicated construction crew has done outstanding work, building to facilitate a quick and smooth transition onto the stage after the close of “DREAMGIRLS.”
Having a crew willing to do this ‘double duty’ has allowed us to maintain a more professional process to scenic construction and will enable the cast to rehearse on the set and on the stage at the earliest possible moment. After that, it will be polish and shine so the show will be ready for our audiences to enjoy. ”
Vicky Thomasson is heading up costumes, trying to find the right vintage clothing for the 1937 setting. In some cases, the clothes must be made to fit the actors, and other outfits have been located to give the look of a Depression-era immigrant family living in Brooklyn.
All the many aspects of the show are coming together so it will be ready for an appreciative opening night audience on Thursday, April 19, at 7:30.
As Little Theatre has done in the past, there will be a Theatre Thursday special on opening night, with a buy one, get one free for adult tickets.
The curtain will go up again on Friday and Saturday nights, April 20 and 21, with a Sunday matinee on the 22.
The show will run the next week as well on Thursday, Friday and Sunday – April 26, 27, and 29. Tickets can be purchased at The Prizery by calling 572-8339 or by going online to www.hclt.org.
Don’t miss this coming-of-age comedy of what it is like to be nearly 15 and wanting to experience life, while living in a crowded home with seemingly too many family members.
The show is recommended for teenagers and adults.