A Delighted Audience Member’s Review of Brighton Beach Memoirs
By Fred Hertrich
As with each Quality-of-Life-Experience, the wonder of those which are – unquestionably – the very best begins with the “ingredients” ….. but beyond the correct ingredients, it is the recipe through which each is carefully and remarkably combined.
And so it is with the absolutely terrific production of Brighton Beach Memoirs currently being offered at Center Players, that tucked-away-treasure of a community theater, neatly nestled on an otherwise undistinguished corner in picturesque downtown Freehold Borough. If the time and opportunity to “go to the theatre” is limited, Brighton Beach Memoirs at Center Players is a “can’t miss!”
To be sure, the “ingredient” of the script is almost unparalleled. Neil Simon …. a playwright whose name alone is all that is necessary as an introduction …. has written a magnificent play. Simply reading his writing alone brings the reader/reviewer to that very special historical reality of “just-before-The-War” in a somewhat-less-than-modest …. but frequently reflective home, wherein – absent any particular planning or intentionality, but simply of necessity – immediate and extended family shared food and shelter …. and the essence of “caring for one’s brother/sister” regardless of the economics of the time.
As performed at Center Players, that writing simply glows …. and presents an effervescence which is nothing short of amazing. And that, of course, is because of the ancillary and critically important performance “ingredients” …. the actor-by-actor performances of the cast, the beyond-perfect set design graced by authentic wall hangings, photos, painted walls …. and, as always at Center Players …. the warmth of community, as friends and neighbors (primarily from the greater Freehold area) engage in an intimacy of a small theater, physically adjacent to one another in the lobby before show time, during comfortable seating during the show, at the always-a-treat-complimentary-refreshment-laced intermission … and – for those who so wish – in lobby conversation immediately after the show.
The combination of these wonderful “ingredients” are beautifully combined in a “theatrical recipe” which is – together – a perfect full-course delight. Every “piece” stands fully and completely on its own … in combination …. a comprehensive delicacy.
No doubt, the crème de la crème are those who perform. Individually – and as a team – they are nothing short of spectacular. As with the finest of performances – professional or otherwise – each actor/actress does not “play a role;” rather, each IS the role.
By example of those returning to the stage at Center Players …. Kate Barron IS Nora and with her very presence, connects not only with her fellow performers but with the unique emotional chord within each member of the audience. Sheldon Fallon IS Jack …. and at several points throughout the performance, one can observe a visceral “connectedness” among the guests in the audience, for Jack – IF one closes her/his eyes for just a second or two, becomes your grandfather, your great-grandfather, your long-ago uncle, nephew, in-law ….
Also returning to Center Players is Steven Lerner. Steven IS Stanley …. and as such, everyone’s older, often idolized, brother.
And of those new to Center Players …. Arielle Kopp …. An amazingly talented middle-school student becomes Laurie early in the performance …. and Alicia Rodriguez shall always be Kate. In Brighton Beach Memoirs, Alicia Rodriguez clearly “earns her stripes” to sit among the plethora of FANTASTIC performances and performers which have graced Center Players from time to time during the more-than-a-decade presence of the theater in Freehold.
Aunt Blanche (more commonly known throughout Monmouth County as Lisa Merritt) -performing in tandem with each other actor/actress – offers a magnificent artistic presentation on her own, and as a member of this simply terrific ”team of talent.”
And, of course, arguably the show’s “stopper!” …. Ryan Gordon …. Ryan’s presentation and incorporation in words, in body language, in emphasis, in totality …. is absolutely Eugene. Were he not surrounded by such a tremendous group of talent throughout, Eugene (Ryan Gordon) could – arguably carry a one-man-show …
Once more, Brighton Beach Memoirs at Center Players …. a cannot miss, for each for whom “memoirs of fantastic theater” matter.
Photos by Mark Lamhut
(Fred Hertrich is a multi-decade proud resident of Freehold. With no theatrical experience whatsoever, he is the remarkably family-fortunate lifetime husband of Violet, and father of three children, all of whom were educated, in part, in the Freehold Township and Freehold Regional Schools … as is, presently, one of his grandchildren. Fred is both honored and privileged to serve as Professor of Political Science, currently for both Brookdale Community College and for Middlesex County College.)
*********** Ticket Information *************
Brighton Beach Memoirs opened at Center Playhouse, located at 35 South Street in downtown Freehold, on Friday, April 17th and runs for five weekends through Sunday May 17th, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM. There is an additional 2:00 Matinee on Saturday May 9th and no performance on Mother’s Day, Sunday May 10th. Tickets are $25 for Adults and $23 for Seniors & Students and includes gourmet desserts and refreshments. Group rates for parties of ten or more are available. Seating is limited so call the box office at (732) 462-9093 or visit us online at www.CenterPlayers.org to purchase your tickets.