Cappies Review: A Bright Night for 'Brighton Beach Memoirs'

Allie Hult of Holt High School reviews the Francis Howell North High production of 'Brighton Beach Memoirs' for the Cappies, the high school theater review program.

It is 1937 and the world is coming apart at the seams—or at least Eugene’s world. His family is crumbling, his mindset is changing, and his love life is null. What can a boy do? Well, in Eugene’s case, write a memoir, which is exactly what he does in “Brighton Beach Memoirs”, a comedic play put on by .

In a classic coming-of-age story that brings both laughter and tears, Eugene Morris Jerome shares his unique take on life as he faces the daily shocks of family drama, puberty, and the looming World War. Opened in 1983, “Brighton Beach Memoirs” by Neil Simon has since won several Tony awards and been made into a movie, each rendition better depicting Eugene’s distinctive personality and dysfunctional family.

Joe Henke as Eugene brought the play to life from the moment he walked onstage. His compelling character development, made complete by the palpable rapport with the other actors onstage, kept the play flowing at a comfortable pace and kept the audience constantly engaged. His unique relationship with Brock Birkner as Stanley was both believable and gripping; both boys’ talents complemented each other as their characters’ relationship unfolded. In fact, Birkner’s acting skills shone all on their own as the play progressed and he displayed clear understanding of character.

The rest of the cast also proved to be remarkable performers. John Hallemeier as Jack whole-heartedly embraced his role as the wise father who held the family together. His deliberate changes in voice, face, and walk portrayed a well-developed character and an actor who understood that character to his core. Also notable was Rachel Kramer as Blanche, Eugene’s widowed aunt. Kramer depicted her character’s developments well, utilizing an accent consistently and showing emotion admirably. Her onstage daughters Julia Carney as Nora and Brittany Steck as Laurie presented intriguing relationships with each other and the rest of the cast.

The show had not only excellent actors, but an outstanding technical crew. The set, containing several bedrooms of the house and many props relevant to the time period, was markedly impressive. Costumes and make-up were effective in their display of age and of the time period, and although sound was occasionally an issue, it was generally successful.

There were few changes that could have been made to create a better play. Accents were intermittently difficult or inconsistent, but were usually maintained commendably. Lighting and blocking sometimes hid faces; however, this was rarely a real issue. A few props and costumes seemed disloyal to the time period, but this was more than made up for by an abundance of antiques that stayed true to the setting.

“Brighton Beach Memoirs” is a comedic yet heart-wrenching story that reminds all of the joys and terrors of growing up—and Francis Howell North’s talented actors and actresses have delivered a bright performance that is sure to be remembered by all.

by Allie Hult of Holt High School

This review was submitted by The Cappies, a program that trains high school theater and journalism students as critics. The students then attend shows at other schools, write reviews and publish those reviews in local news outlets. At the end of the year, student critics vote for awards that are presented at a formal Cappies Gala.


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