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Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” Shines at Human Race Theatre

Review by Liz Eichler of Brighton Beach Memoirs: Human Race Theatre

Neil Simon’s autobiographical trilogy, an homage to his childhood, army and early career, begins with Brighton Beach Memoirs. Dayton area audiences are lucky to see a warm and funny production, with some stellar performances, playing now through April 22.

Set in 1937, audiences meet the pubescent baseball fan Eugene Jerome (Eric Deiboldt) and his family as they manage their daily lives in a hardscrabble Brooklyn neighborhood, full of first generation Americans and recent immigrants, wary of the shadow of the oncoming WWII and worried about how they will scrape together money for the monthly bills. It is a play about Eugene as his comes to the end of his childhood, understanding the complicated relationships in a family, and writing it down in his diary, “The Unbelievable, Fantastic and Completely private Thoughts of I, Eugene Morris Jerome.” Deiboldt’s performance anchors the show with his physical and vocal performance as well as channeling Eugene’s positive energy.

His household is rather complicated, and straining at the seams, as his Aunt Blanche (Sonia Perez) and and her two daughters, voluptuous Nora and sickly Laurie, (Katie Sinicki and Julie Murphy) have squeezed into the small home with Eugene, his older brother Stanley (Richard Buchanan), and Mother Kate (Lisa Ann Goldsmith) and Father Jack (Rory Sheridan). The emotional exchange between the sisters Kate and Blanche is very powerful. We need more moms like Kate! The whole ensemble delivered solid performances.

Another solid performance is the set, designed by Dan Gray, a cutaway of the Jeromes’ worn but incredibly clean two-story house. With excellent lighting by John Rensel, we can focus on the small exchanges in the home as well as the activity when they are all gathered.

Director Marya Spring Cordes ensures the first act is brisk and full of laughs as we greet the household, yet the second act has a lot of heart, and maybe even a tear. Each character is well-defined and multi-dimensional.  Goldsmith’s Kate can be hard and dry, but warm and caring; Perez’s Blanche is weary and brittle, but discovers her strength; Sheridan’s Jack is brusque and weary, but listens and understands. Much more than a sit-com, you will leave the show with a warm smile.  For tickets, contact 937-228-3630 or go to www.humanracetheatre.org.