Brighton Beach Memoirs, one of Neil Simon’s most celebrated works opened this weekend at the White Theater at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kan. The play is the first chapter of the Eugene Trilogy, preceding the Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound. It centers on the Jerome family, who live in the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Tim Bair directs this humorous look at a family existing in the 1930’s. He is currently the Producing Artistic Director of The Theatre in the Park for Johnson County. The scenery designed by Jason Harris reminds of us a middle-income single family dwelling that many of the audience grew up in.
Eugene Jerome is the 15 year-old son of Jack and Kate and it his writings in a journal that is the vocal point of the production. Josh Brady is superb in the role of Eugene, the adolescent, who according to him receives blame for everything that happens in the household. Brady has a marvelous sense of comedic timing for his age and pulls off humorous quips as if he were a twenty-year veteran of the stage.
Don Leonard is Jack, the father and uncle to the families living under the same roof. Leonard delivers a strong passionate performance that is especially evident when he intervenes in an argument between Kate his wife and Blanche his sister-in-law. His performance is so strong that he makes some of the audience remember the dad’s they grew up with, more worried about the family finances than what is happening under the roof.
Sarah Montoya plays Kate the matriarch of the family and Meagan Edmonds plays her sister Blanche. Both give very good performances in their supporting roles. Eugene is not the only child living in the house, his brother Stanley, and Cousins Nora and Laurie live there. Hunter Hawkins plays Stanley, Nora by Misty Ballew, and Laurie by Georgia Dubois each giving good performances.
Brighton Beach Memoirs continues at the White Theatre through January 19. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. and the matinee on the 19th at 2 p.m. Company, based on the book by George Furth with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim is the next production of the White Theatre and runs from February 8 through February 23.