THEATER MONDAY: Brighton Beach Memoirs

Jon Kovach and Max Meyers star in "Brighton Beach Memoirs"

I feel kind of dumb tonight. I’ve driven past the Covedale Center for Performing Arts countless times. I’ve even said out loud, “Gosh, I wanna go see that!” about things I’ve seen on the marquee. Yet, for some reason I never did. I shudder to think of the things I’ve missed out on because I didn’t make that a priority. That will change after seeing “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”

The show is largely considered to be Neil Simon’s best work.  Its autobiographical in many ways and tells the story of a Jewish family through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old boy.  The movie version, which I saw many years ago, was pretty good.  The play is phenomenal.

I often wonder if I’m really easy to impress or why I have such strong reactions to live performance.  I really do believe that in order for me to connect with the material emotionally, the actors have to believe what they are saying.  If that theory is true (and I usually am, haha) then the cast of this show not only understood what they were doing up there but had experienced it on some level in their own lives.
The adults in the show were OK.  That was what I thought until after intermission when they finally got to shine.  Wow wow wow.  The two ladies, Tracy Schoster (Kate) and Tara Williams (Blanche) stirred such feeling in me during their big scene together that I was sobbing.  I’m sure the old ladies sitting behind me thought I was nuts as they saw my body shaking but I’m long past caring what people think.  I DO care, though, that people can be so rude as to leave their cell phones on, cough repeatedly throughout a show, or worse yet TALK OUT LOUD so that I can hear you two sections away.  Seriously?  Never been to the theatre before??  But anyway, I digress . . .

The two young ladies (Katie Hibner and Grace Liesch – an 8th grader and 10th grader respectively) exceeded my expectations.  As they continue to perform and become more seasoned, they will calm down a bit and be even more natural in their speech.  The actor who played the father, David Levy, was really good once they got his microphone turned on.  He was probably just as good before that but I couldn’t hear him and unfortunately that took me out of the action a little.  In the second act, though, he was really great.  Jon Kovach, who plays Stanley, brought a maturity to the part and had impeccable comic timing.  I believed him as the older brother and dedicated son.

Max Meyers is someone to watch

But the star of this show, Max Meyers (Eugene, our narrator) was so much better than he has any right to be. He’s a young man, still in high school, but he. is. a. star. His picture perfect accent and cracking teenage voice, his clumsy pubescent mannerisms, and his overall adolescent awkwardness – well, it doesn’t make sense that has the depth to get it.  But somehow he does!   He must have had great direction but at the same time is obviously a naturally gifted actor.  I will be watching for more from Max Meyers both locally and in the future.  He has what it takes to make it.

I caught the show in its last weekend; I won’t make that mistake again.  I wish you had been able to experience this show and the feelings it stirred in me.  Yes, I was sad and heartbroken at some points but this family – with all their love and all their warmth and charm – well, they touched me deeply.  I enjoyed it very much.

Check out SappyCritic.com for more of Kirk’s reviews of theatre and movies!

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