Written by Neil Simon
Directed Karen Vickery
Canberra REP at Theatre 3, Acton to 15 August
Reviewed by LEN POWER 5 August 2020
At the time of his death in 2018, the American playwright, Neil Simon, had written more than 30 plays. He has received more combined Broadway Tony Award nominations than any other writer and many of his plays have been successfully adapted to film.
‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ is a semi-autobiographical play by Neil Simon, the first play in his Eugene trilogy. It precedes ‘Biloxi Blues’ and ‘Broadway Bound’. The play premiered on Broadway in 1983 and ran for nearly 1,300 performances. It is still the last non-musical play to run over 1,000 consecutive performances on Broadway.
Set in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York in September 1937 during the Great Depression, 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 in the day to day interaction with his colourful family in an over-crowded and financially struggling household.
Director, Karen Vickery, has given us a production of great depth and attention to detail. The interaction of these family members is very real, American accents are convincing and sustained and the cast members display a deep understanding of the manners and morals of 1937 American culture.
|Jamie Boyd (front) and cast members
Everyone on that stage gives a superb performance in this tightly-knit ensemble. Their comic timing of the many laugh lines is excellent and they can play the dramatic scenes equally well. There is a tender moment late in the show that will bring a tear to your eye, indicating the high level of involvement these skilful players have drawn you into.
The attention to detail is also apparent in the suitably cluttered and atmospheric period set by Chris Baldock. Anna Senior’s costumes for this working class family are perfect for the times. The lighting design by Stephen Still and sound design by Neville Pye and Amelia Allarakhia are intricate but so subtly done, they add atmosphere without drawing attention to themselves. Every one of the period props on that stage has been well-chosen and placed by Yanina Clifton, Michael Sparks and Antonia Kitzel.
If there’s ever a time where we need a good laugh, this is it. Karen Vickery’s fine production of this very funny and life-affirming play provides comedy and drama equally. It’s so good to see superbly produced live theatre again!
Their first live play to open since the Covi-19 pandemic started in March, Canberra REP’s production is following a strict Covid-19 Safety Plan with restricted numbers of seats available. I felt very comfortable with the arrangements and audience members’ compliance on the night I attended.
Photo by Helen Drum
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.
‘Theatre of Power’, a regular podcast on Canberra’s performing arts scene with Len Power, can be heard on Spotify, ITunes and other selected platforms or at https://player.whooshkaa.com/shows/theatre-of-power.