By Jennifer O’Donnell
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – Friday, April 27 was opening night for the Tony Award-winning Neil Simon play “Brighton Beach Memoirs” presented by Mainstage Center for the Arts at Camden County College.
Producing Artistic Director for Mainstage Center for the Arts Ed Fiscella says, “There is humor from one of the best comedic writers of the 20th century, but it is more than that. There is drama and there is introspection as Neil Simon reflects on his childhood and family relationships.”
“Brighton Beach Memoirs” is the first in the Eugene trilogy, followed by “Biloxi Blues” and “Broadway Bound.” This story is set in 1937, Brighton Beach, N.Y. It revolves around 15-year-old narrator Eugene Jerome. Eugene is Jewish, Polish, lower middle class, and his hormones are raging.
Eugene is played by 16-year-old Cherry Hill High School East sophomore Jacob Horner. Horner has been in many productions but this was his debut performance for Mainstage. “Eugene is totally the opposite of me, he’s the anti-me and it’s interesting playing a character like that,” says Horner.
Eugene lives with his parents, Kate (Debra M. Faye) and Jack (John Kauffeld), and his brother, Stanley (Brendon Figueras). When his uncle dies, his Aunt Blanche (Catherine Fichera) and her two daughters, Nora (Meghan Elizabeth) and Laurie (Elisabeth Siegel), move in. In a tight space, with so many personalities, sparks fly.
The 2 ½-hour play was full of comedy and drama. Jack was working two jobs trying to take care of the seven people in the house. Being Jewish, he was also worried about his family trying to flee Europe.
Eugene’s had to work double hard because of his extended family moving in. His cousin used a “flutter” in her heart as an excuse to get out of helping. His cousin Nora was 16 and reeked havoc on Eugene’s hormone situation.
Director Brad Cain, who is the artistic director for the KrocARTS Institute for the Salvation Army, said that the original play focuses more on Eugene and this version gives equal weight to all characters.
About 150 were in attendance for opening night. Fiscella says there were 450 reservations for the Saturday show. Included in Friday’s audience was Highland High School English teacher Alexa Bastelica with her freshman English honors students.