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Francis Howell North Brighton Beach Memoirs

By • Apr 25th, 2012 • Category: Cappies, Missouri

A curious fifteen year-old boy named Eugene clutches his baseball, and holds on for dear life, as he learns about life, liberty, and girls, in Francis Howell North’s hilarious production of Brighton Beach Memoirs.

Neil Simon’s hilariously entertaining piece first hit Broadway in 1983 starring Matthew Broderick, and ran for 1,299 performances. Set in the 1950s, the comedy follows the memoirs of young Eugene, an adolescent constantly learning about life through his diverse family. His father and mother, Jack and Kate, along with the resident Aunt Blanche, struggle with finances and family problems. A large source of this trouble is Eugene’s heart throb and cousin, Nora, who aspires to be a professional dancer. Reciprocating her problematic tendencies is her sister Laurie, who suffers from mysterious heart problems. Topping the issues of his relatives is Eugene’s wayward brother Stanley, who commonly commits immoral acts, but still manages to guide his brother through his awkward stage. These worlds swirl around the jovial Eugene, as he deals with his issues with nothing but his sense of humor.

The play’s energy was carried by its star, Joe Henke, in the role of the young and ardent Eugene. Henke nailed the character of a girl-crazy fifteen year-old with energetic movements and a brilliant personality. Furthering Henke’s success was his admirable Brooklyn accent, which was rarely dropped or flawed. Also excelling in the Brooklyn accent was John Hallemeier as Jack, the father of Eugene. Hallemeier personified a stressed old man with his movements and vocal control, bringing a vivid sense of realism to the play. Also producing a notable performance was Eugene’s brother Stanley, played by Brock Birkner, who created brotherly chemistry with Eugene. Though some actors dropped lines or accents occasionally, they were compensated for by strong characters and entertaining acting.

Technically, the show had both positives and negatives. The multi-layered set helped move the action along with different rooms for different characters, although at times it was difficult to follow the focus of the play. While the lack of light changes added to this issue, the lights still provided a perfect mood for the intended period of the play. Although some costumes seemed a bit modern for the time period, they were made up for by the era-befitting pieces that dressed the set.

Francis Howell North’s production of Brighton Beach Memoirs proved to be a delightful comedy full of laughs and enjoyment. Despite the minor flaws, the school succeeded in bringing Neil Simon’s witty piece to life. While family might get in the way and blame you for everything, Brighton Beach Memoirs reminds us that loving relatives are all that one needs for happiness.

by Nathan Robert Hinds of Holt High School

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