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Theatre Review: Brighton Beach Memoirs

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Brighton Beach Memoirs" is all about Neil Simon recalling his days as a Jewish teenager in Brooklyn, wishing he was someone else.

PLAY EXCERPT: "If only I was born Italian. All the best Yankees are Italian! My mother makes spaghetti with ketchup! What chance do I have?"

That kind of comic verbal banter is Neil Simon's trademark - and there are plenty of laughs in the domestic foreground of this play. But heavy duty events are moving in the background, as the Nazis begin taking over.

PLAY EXCERPT "How many relatives do we have in Europe?

"Enough. Uncles. Cousins. I have a great aunt, your father has nephews.

"I have a cousin in Poland. His whole family.

"They have relatives in Warsaw, that's where his mother was born.

"What if they got to America? Where would they live?

"What God gives us to deal with, we deal with."

Though set during the Depression, Simon's play speaks to us in a surprisingly clear voice today, with world events striking close to home.

The acting is especially strong. Craig Piaget plays the nerved-up 15-year-old main character whose giddy adolescent impulses, often involving a baseball bat and glove, ricochet off the play's battle-tested middle-aged adults.

Matt K. Miller shuffles in as the weary father, terrified he'll lose his job and no longer be able to hold the family together.

Jamie Jones and Julie Anchor play sisters under strain, forced to live together with their families in the same tiny house. 

What makes this story from seven decades ago so timely is the way you find characters you can recognize. And when you can identify with people's troubles, and how they deal with them, you might just gain a better understanding of your own.

The Sacramento Theatre Company's production of "Brighton Beach Memoirs" continues through March 27th. Click for more details.

Listen to playwright Neil Simon interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air

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