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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Last night, Mrs K. and I made a trafficked trek north to Hamilton County Theatre Guild’s Belfry Theatre to see a final week offering of Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical family-based play, Brighton Beach Memoirs. I am so very glad we did.

Director James Williams, with the benefit of a versatile and well-suited cast, has put together a tender, yet funny production of one of Mr. Simon’s most poignant and sentimental memory plays. Coupled with an excellent set by Jay Ganz, the great costumes by Norma Floyd, and sound by Dennis Forkel and Debbie Coon, the presentation’s production values are noteworthy.

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(from left) Jackson Lindner as Eugene Jerome, Missy Rump as his mother Kate and Barb Percy Weaver as his Aunt Blanche, in a scene from The Belfry Theatre’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs”.

Cathedral High sophomore Jackson Lindner plays the part of Eugene Jerome and absolutely owns the role. He finds all the many levels of his character – a put-upon, blamed for everything, puberty laden, baseball crazy, girl discovering youth – who writes down everything he observes as his family goes through an especially rough period of multiple crises. Lindner’s performance is loaded with energy and emotion, just what is needed as this Simon central character.

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(from left) Jake Hobbs as Stanley Jerome, Russell Lee Watson as his father Jack, and Kimberly Droz as his cousin Laurie Morton in a scene from The Belfry Theatre’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs”.

He is joined onstage by a roster of actors and actresses well up to the task. Steve Jerk wanders the stage as the Older Eugene Jerome, providing narratives and explanations with humorous effect. Jake Hobbs is well-cast as Eugene’s older brother Stanley. Hobbs makes his turns on stage count with good understanding of the young man’s tests and turmoils as he discovers adult responsibilities. Missy Rump is perfect as the boys’ mother Kate – the queen of worriers, and Russell Lee Watson is solid and wise as their father, Jack.

Sisters

(from left) Sabrina Duprey as Nora Morton and Kimberly Droz as her sister Laurie in a scene from The Belfry Theatre’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs”.

The Jeromes share their crowded home with Kate’s widowed sister Blanche Morton and her daughters, Nora and Laurie. Barb Percy Weaver continues her run of impressive performances, as Blanche. Ms. Weaver’s characterization is moving and worthy of empathy as she tries to manage a life she was never prepared for. Sixteen year old daughter Nora struggles with conflicts of what she wants to do with her life versus what everyone else thinks will be best to do, and Sabrina Duprey, makes clear the girl’s emotions and desires with a striking turn, while Kimberly Droz does some fine work as the sickly Laurie. We hope to see both these talented young actresses frequently as they grow into more roles on stage.

Cast

The cast of “Brighton Beach Memoirs, including Steve Jerk (Older Eugene Jerome, standing)

The play is long, nearly 3 hours with the intermission, but it is a deep and rich story with multiple story-lines that all are rectified by the end. With such an accomplished cast, the time element was not a distraction to our enjoyment. I should note there are some “colorful” and cringe-worthy discussions of matters of puberty that perhaps you would rather not have your younger theatre fans be a party to. Funny stuff, to be sure, but…just sayin’…

Bottomline: Unfortunately, my busy schedule kept me from seeing this show earlier in its run. I wish there were more time to invite you to see this extremely well-done show. I recommend that if you can, make plans to attend one of the two final presentations – tonight Saturday night at 8 pm or Sunday afternoon at 2 pm. This is worthwhile entertainment!

Brighton Beach Memoirs continues at The Belfry for two more performances – scheduled for June 16 & 17. The Saturday show is at 8 pm, while Sunday matinees begin at 2 pm. You can find out more about the show and reservations by linking here or by calling 317.773.1085.

  • – Photos by Betsy Reason
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