Location: Nederlander Theatre,
Website: Official The Neil Simon Plays site
Starring: Noah Robbins, Laurie Metcalf, Jessica Hecht, Santino Fontana, Alexandra Socha, Dennis Boutsikaris, Gracie Bea Lawrence
My Review: Even those who aren’t theater fans are familiar with playwright Neil Simon and his multitude of “slice of life” productions, many of which have also become movies and TV shows. He’s the man who’s responsible for The Goodbye Girl, Barefoot in the Park, The Out-of-Towners, Lost in Yonkers, and The Odd Couple. This fall, two of his iconic classics—Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound—are getting back to back revivals in the same theater.
Both plays feature the Jerome family in their simple Brooklyn home, their story told through the eyes and smart mouth of
Brighton Beach Memoirs isn’t really a plot-driven play; it’s a relationship-driven play. There isn’t a lot of action happening on stage, so if you’re looking for a high-energy night of theater, you’re likely to be bored. But if you appreciate well-crafted moments between characters and enjoy finding the nuances in their relationships, that’s where the heart and soul of this play lies. You get to see a day in the life of this family, which could be a day in the life of anyone’s family. You get to see the happy veneer that’s painted over strained relationships, the explosions that occur when that veneer cracks, and the inevitable, dutiful love and affection that comes from family discord—something that is both painfully funny and truthful to see mirrored from your own life and onto a stage. The play may take place in 1937
This particular production of Brighton Beach Memoirs is particularly well cast.
While this production isn’t perfect—the first act plods a bit and some of the blocking makes hearing the actors difficult—it’s still a testament to the talent of Neil Simon that Brighton Beach Memoirs has aged so well. Some of the cultural references are a bit dated, but family dynamics have seen precious little change over the years, which can make you want to both laugh and cry—often at the same time.
Bottom Line: There are times when the first act of Brighton Beach Memoirs drags along, but it’s laying all the groundwork for the more explosive second act, which is a great reward for your patience. The nimble cast brings the Jerome family to life, making them feel like an actual family, and one that you quite possibly know (or are a part of). Broadway Bound, which revisits the Jeromes 12 years later, begins playing in mid-November and utilizes the same cast (with a new actor playing an adult