Staples to stage Brighton Beach Memoirs
Published 4:45 pm, Thursday, March 3, 2011
Real life can be messy. Even in the chaos of everyday living, though, there is humor. No one knows this better than playwright Neil Simon who penned a trilogy of semi-autographical plays, beginning with "Brighton Beach Memoirs."
Staged by the Staples Players this weekend, "Brighton Beach Memoirs" offers an account of the main character, Eugene, growing up with his extended family in Brooklyn.
Performances are Friday and Saturday, March 4 and 5, and Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 10, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 6 at 2 p.m.
Ryan Shea, 15, who portrays the character which is supposedly modeled after Simon, enthusiastically tackled the role and said he could identify with many of his attributes.
"Eugene is a quirky, funny character," Ryan said. "He's always trying to get a laugh and he enjoys writing, which is a bit like me. I like having a happy atmosphere around me and, in that respect, we are similar."
Shea has been involved in several musicals produced on the Staples stage. Most recently, he was featured as Oscar Shapiro in "Curtains."
Charlie Greenwald, another veteran actor at the Westport high school, plays Eugene's older brother, Stanley, in "Brighton Beach Memoirs." Charlie describes his character as "an angry, complicated teen."
"He's like James Dean, a rebel who gets into trouble," Charlie said.
When the character makes a couple of wrong choices, he wants to reconcile with his father while also realizing that his younger brother Eugene is looking up to him, Charlie explained.
"I love acting and playing other people," Charlie said. "My love of acting definitely stems from my love for movies."
Some of his favorite movies are two of Neil Simon's classic comedies, "The Odd Couple" and "The Sunshine Boys."
David Roth and Kerry Long, the husband-and-wife team who co-direct "Brighton Beach Memoirs," said they chose this play because of its interplay of drama and comedy. The Staples production, which will be staged in the school's Black Box Theater, gives the students a chance to "try out comedy, but also test their dramatic chips as well," Long said.
"We really love to do these smaller shows because it gives the actors a chance to really delve into their characters and gives our audience a chance to see a different side of these talented students than they would see in our musical productions," she said.
Roth said the cast is comprised of hardworking, committed students who "want to be there."
"This group takes theatre very seriously -- several are going on to study theatre in college or plan to -- and for that we are very lucky," Roth said.
Jessica Ostreicher, a junior at Staples, portrays Eugene and Stanley's aunt Blanche. For the past two years, Ostreicher has been working behind-the-scenes as part of the Staples Players technical team. Jessica is also senior manager of the scenic arts crew for "Brighton Beach Memoirs."
Last year, Jessica was cast in the student-directed drama, "The Children's Hour." Fueled by that positive experience, she decided to audition for the Neil Simon play. "I couldn't stay away from acting," she said. "I love it."
The production staff for "Brighton Beach Memoirs" is set designer and technical director, David Seltzer; costume designers, Marjorie Watt and Priscilla Stampa; lighting designer, Peter Petrino; scenic art mentor, Lynn Muniz; and media supervisor Jim Honeycutt.
For information about "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and to reserve tickets, visit www.staplesplayers.com. Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for adults. Due to the subject matter, parental guidance is strongly suggested. No one under the age of 7 will be permitted inside.