The most popular American playwright in history was, easily, Neil Simon, and comedic master’s best play, according to many critics, gets a revival at Oldcastle Theatre as the company presents “Brighton Beach Memoirs” opening Friday July 12th.
Fifteen year old Eugene, modeled on Simon himself, is preoccupied with sex, and the Yankees, a writer-to-be, an alternately perplexed and perceptive observer, and our narrator and guide to life in the Jerome family. The play is set in September of 1937, late in the depression, the Jeromes have relatives living with them, and life is by no means easy. But as the playwright portrays it, it is neither miserable no pitiful. The Jeromes are troubled: there is illness, unemployment, poverty, deep resentments and foreboding signs of World War II. Yet the family meets challenges with such enormous spirit, dignity and vigor that life—at once humorous and poignant—is something to celebrate.
Time critic T. E. Kalem wrote that, “Brighton Beach Memoirs” belongs to the family genre where the passwords are forgive and remember.” The New York Post called it, “effortlessly his best play.”
Directed by Oldcastle Artistic Associate Nathan Stith the play’s cast includes Sarah Corey who received raves from audiences and critics two years ago portraying the same character, Kate, in Oldcastle’s production of “Broadway Bound.” The plays are part of Simon’s trilogy of B plays which are autobiographical and among Simon’s biggest hits. This time Ms. Corey is a younger Kate but one still working sun-up to sun down to keep her family together. Ms. Corey was in last year’s off-Broadway hit “A Letter to Harvey Milk”. and appeared in “Shear Madness” at the Kennedy Center
Anthony Ingargiola, who played Eugene in “Broadway Bound” this time plays his older brother Stanley, who is facing a dilemma at work. He was also seen in Oldcastle production of the musical “Big River” playing Huck Finn.
Eli Ganias, was last seen with the Bennington company in “Moonlight and Magnolias” with Stith, is Kate’s hard working husband, Jack. Ganias was in the original company of the long time New York hit, “Tony & Tina’s Wedding” His TV appearances include “Law & Order, American Splendor” and “100 Centre Street.”
Sophia Garder, and actress with Oldcastle since 1999, returns in the role of Blanche, Kate’s widowed sister who is raising two daughters. She has appeared with Oldcastle in a wide range of shows including “Night and Her Stars, Fox on the Fairway”, and “Mornings at Seven.”
DJ Gleason is making his Oldcastle debut playing Eugene. A Philadelphia native, Gleason has appeared in “Biloxi Blues, the third play in Simon’s trilogy. His credits range from “King Lear” to “Awake and Sing.”
Kate Kenney plays Nora. She’s acted with Vermont’s Lost Nation Theatre, with the Bickford in New Jersey, which has done co-productions with Oldcastle, Shakespeare & Company in Lenox and New York’s Pearl Theater Company. This is her first Oldcastle production.
Kristen Herink plays the youngest member of the family, 13 year old Laurie. She, like Alexandra Parris who is serving as Assistant to Stage Manager Liz Raymond, is a student at Trinity University in Texas. Director Nathan Stith teaches at the university and this is the beginning of what the Oldcastle and the Trinity hope will be a continuing relationship bringing students and faculty members to Vermont to work with the theatre company. Stith has worked as an actor and director with Oldcastle for more than 20 years. Last season he directed “Israel Potter…” Stith’s credits include productions with Colorado Shakespeare and national tours of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Romeo and Juliet.”
The set design is by Oldcastle’s Associate Artistic Director Richard Howe, costumes by Ursula McCarty, lights by David V. Groupe, who is also the company Technical Director and sound by Cory Wheat.