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‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ opens Thursday in South Boston

Today, lots of families are struggling with difficult times trying to find work, pay bills and plan for the future. Our modern audiences should be able to relate to the situation of the family in Neal Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” 


The family is trapped in New York during the depression, when money was scarce and anyone with a job was considered fortunate.

This production is Halifax County Little Theatre’s current production at The Prizery and one that should ring true with local audiences.

The play is a biographical remembrance of Simon’s growing up years and brings out the difficulty of growing up with humor and pathos. The central character is Eugene, a 13-year-old boy who can’t decide which is more meaningful, The New York Yankees or his cousin Nora’s female form. His dilemma will cause the audience no shortage of laughs as he attempts to learn what it means to be an adult.

In the play there are some grownups who provide examples of what sacrifice and responsibility really mean with true affection as a motivation.  These family members have more problems than anyone should but never try to avoid their responsibilities.

The actors playing them have shown the same level of responsibility as role models for the younger members of the cast. Leading this group is veteran Halifax County Little Theatre performer Annette Woolard. She fills the part with a level of professionalism that brings Blanche to life and inspires the younger cast members to raise their performance. Blanche is sister of the mother of the house and has had to move in with her family because of her husband’s death. Blanche and her daughters are putting a strain on a house and family already stressed by the rigors of life in the depression.

Woolard said she is enjoying playing a “real” person after a number of outlandish characters in past productions. She says the variety of emotions is vast, and moving through them is a challenge. She feels motivated to create all of Blanche’s layers and transformations as the play progresses.

Director Martin Beekman has high praise for her performance and is especially pleased with her dedication to the creative process. He credits Woolard for her fine example of preparation and commitment to the show.

He indicates her character development is a model for the younger cast members who are learning the process of creating a real feeling performance.

Playing Blanche’s sister, Kate, is Chawn Cliborne-Bego. She is on the stage with Halifax County Little Theatre for the first time but has a long history of involvement going back to high school.

She appeared in “The Night Of The Living Beauty Pageant” with Becky Donner and assisted with other plays through the years. She also worked with theatre while living in Michigan and has worked backstage on shows since returning to South Boston.

Clilborne-Bego is very pleased to be on stage and said she is enjoying playing the mother. She has a young son and said that motherhood has changed her and given her the motivation to be the best mom possible on stage and off. She feels her status of parenthood is the most important aspect of creating her character. She said she is always concerned on stage for what Kate would do to make life best for her children and extended family.

In a story where all choices affect many other individuals, this character’s choices are important.

The part of Jack, Kate’s husband and family breadwinner, is filled by Halifax County Little Theatre newcomer Joseph Boutwell. He comes to the stage with a history that includes college and community theatre in his native state of West Virginia. He moved to the Halifax County area several years ago after retiring as a teacher in West Virginia. After moving, he served as a science teacher in the Halifax County School System until 2011.

He came into the cast of “Brighton Beach Memoirs” late but has quickly adapted to the role and assumed the responsibility of the patriarch on stage as well as helping the younger players develop their skills. He feels that this is a particularly strong play in that it has so many good messages about the importance of family and responsibility as well as the humor of a coming of age story for the ages.

Boutwell’s character is an overworked and worried man who feels the responsibility to support two families and teach his sons the values of life that will help them sustain themselves in a difficult world. He has demonstrated the ability to show the many facets of a character who is always facing a new problem but never fails to meet the challenge head on.

Beekman is complimentary of Boutwell’s dedication and his rapid progress after joining the cast late. The director is pleased with his performance and the help he has given younger cast members.

This group of actors is working to bring a real family to the stage with all of the good and bad things that life throws at them. The variety of emotions seems endless but even with difficulties facing the family, there is never a shortage of laughs. These performers are the backbone of a fine cast who will give audiences a wonderful evening of entertainment.

Due to some adult material, the show is recommended for teenagers and adults.